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PRE- 1920 BOOK 


'^OO'/Q W 










18 A S. 












J2.S3.J- / 


Entered ftcconling to Act of Congress, in the year 1852, by 


n Qie Office of the Clerk of the District Conrt of the United States 
in and for the Eastern District of Pennsjlrsnia. 




€)}t jlatiatial /lag nf tjiE iuM §kit5 nf Slnierita, 









Captain by Brevet, U. S. A. 


As nearly as we can learn, the only origin which 
has been suggested for the devices combined in the 
national colors of our country is, that they were 
adopted from the coat of arms of General Washing- 
ton. This imputed origin is not such as would be 
consonant with the known modesty of Washington, 
or the spirit of the times in which the flag was 
adopted. We have, therefore, been at some pains 
to collect authentic statements in reference to our 
national colors, and with these, have introduced 
letters exhibiting the temper of those times, step by 
step, with the changes made in the flag, so com- 
bining them as to form a chain of proof, which, we 
think, must be conclusive. 

Should, however, the perusal of the following 
account of the origin and meaning of the devices in 
the national flag of our country, serve no other pur- 
pose than that of impressing more strongly upon the 
mind of the reader the importance and the promi- 


nence those who achieved our liberties and founded 
our government attached to the idea of Union, its 
preparation will not have been a futile labor. 

Emblems and devices, adopted under high excite- 
ment of the public mind, are chosen as epitomes of 
the sentiments prevailing at the time of their adop- 
tion. Those of the days of our Revolution afford 
proofs far more striking than the most elaborate argu- 
ments, that, in the estimation of our forefathers. 
Union, and existence as a nation, were inseparable. 

The prosecution of our subject has made it neces- 
sary for us to dwell upon those devices, and to de- 
velop those proofs. 


As a not uninteresting introduction to our re- 
search, we will glance at the history of standards, 
from their inception to the present time. We shall 
find that man's faculty of imitation has here, as else- 
where, found employment, modified in its operation 
by some cause peculiar to the nation whose standard 
chances to be under consideration. 

Fosbroke, in his Dictionary of Antiquities^ has fur- 
nished us with most of the information on this sub- 
ject which is pertinent to our design. We shall add 
such comments as will tend to illustrate our conclu- 
sions. Under the head of standards, he writes : — 

" The invention began among the Egyptians, who 
bore an animal at the end of a spear ; but among the 
Grseco-Egyptians, the standards either resemble, at 
top, a round-headed knife, or an expanded semicir- 
cular fan. Among the earlier Greeks, it was a piece 
of armor at the end of a spear ; though Agamemnon, 


in Homer, uses a purple veil to rally his men, &c. 
Afterwards, the Athenians bore the olire and owl ; 
the other nations the effigies of their tutelary gods, 
or their particular symbols, at the end of a spear. 
The Corinthians carried a pegiisiis, the Messenians 
their initial o, and the Lacedaemonians, A ; the Per- 
sians, a golden eagle at the end of a spear, fixed upon 
a carriage; the ancient Gauls, an animal, chiefly a 
bull, lion, and bear. Sir S. B. Meyrick gives the 
following account of the Roman standards. ^£ach 
century J or at least each maniple of troops, had its 
proper standard, and standard-bearer. This was ori- 
ginally merely a bundle of hay on the top of a pole; 
afterwards, a spear with a crosspiece of wood on the 
top ; sometimes the figure of a hand above, proba- 
bly in allusion to the word manipulm; and below, a 
small round or oval shield, generally of silver or of 
gold. On this metal plate were anciently represented 
the warlike deities Mars or Minerva; but after the 
extinction of the commonwealth, the effigies of the 
emperors or their favorites. It was on this account 
that the standards were called numina legionum^ 
and held in religious veneration. The standards of 
different divisions had certain letters inscribed on 
them, to distinguish the one from the other. The 
standard of a legion, according to Dio, was a silver 
eagle, with expanded wings, on the top of a spear. 


sometimes holding a thunderbolt in its claws ; hence 
the word aquila was used to signify a legion. The 
place for this standard was near the general, almost 
in the centre. Before the time of Marius, figures of 
other animals were used, and it was then carried in 
front of the first maniple of the triarii. The vexilr 
lum, or flag of the cavalry (that of the infantry being 
called aiffnum; an eagle on a thunderbolt, within a 
wreath, in Meyrick, pi. 6, fig. 15), was, according to 
Livy, a square piece of cloth, fixed to a crossbar on 
the end of a spear. The labarum^ borrowed by the 
Greek emperors from the Celtic tribes, by whom it 
was called Z?aJ, was similar to this, but with the 
monogram of Christ worked upon it. Thus Sir S. R. 
Meyrick. The dragon, which served for an ensign 
to barbarous nations, was adopted by the Romans, 
probably from the mixture of auxiliaries with the 
legions. At first, the dragon, as the general ensign 
of the barbarians, was used as a trophy by the 
Romans, after Trajan's conquest of the Dacians. 
The dragons were embroidered in cotton, or silk and 
purple. The head was of metal, and they were fast- 
ened on the tops of spears, gilt and tasselled, open* 
ing the mouth wide, which made their long tails, 
painted with difierent colors, float in the wind. They 
are seen on the Trajan column and the arch of Titus, 
and are engraved. The draconariij or ensigns, who 


carried them, were distinguished by a gold collar. 
From the Romans, says Du Gange, it came to the 
Western Empire, and was long, in England, the chief 
standard of our kings, and of the dukes of Normandy. 
Matthew Paris notes its being borne in wars which 
portended destruction to the enemy. It was pitched 
near the royal tent, on the right of the other stand- 
ards, where the guard was kept. Stowe adds, that 
the dragon-standard was never used but when it was 
an absolute intention to fight ; and a golden dragon 
was fixed, that the weary and wounded might repair 
thither, as to a castle, or place of the greatest secu- 
rity. Thus far for the dragon-standard. To return, 
Vigetius mentions pinnesj perhaps aigrettes of feath- 
ers, of different colors, intended for signals, rallying- 
points, &c. Animals, fixed upon plinths, with holes 
through them, are often found. They were ensigns 
intended to be placed upon the ends of spears. 

" Count Caylus has published several ; among 
others two leopards, male and female. Ensigns upon 
colonial coins, if accompanied with the nape of the 
legion, but not otherwiaej show that the colony was 
founded by the veterans of that legion. There were 
also standards called ^i7a, or tufuj consisting of buck- 
lers heaped one above the other. 

"The ancient Franks bore the tiger, wolf, &c., 
but soon adopted the eagle from the Romans. In 



the second race, they used the cross, images of saints, 
&c. The fleur-de-lis was the distinctive attribute of 
the king. 

^^ Ossian mentions the standard of the kings and 
chiefs of clans, and says that it (the king's) was blue 
studded with gold. This is not improbable, for the 
Anglo-Saxon ensign was very grand. It had on it 
the white horse, as the Danish was distinguished by 
the raven. They were, however, diflferently formed 
from the modern, being parallelograms, fringed, and 
borne, sometimes at least, upon a stand with four 
wheels. A standard upon a car was, we have already 
seen, usual with the ancient Persians. Sir S. B. 
Meyrick admits that it was of Asiatic origin, first 
adopted by the Italians, and introduced here in the 
reign of Stephen. That of Stephen is fixed by the 
middle upon a staff*, topped by a cross pattSe (wider 
at the ends than in the middle), has a cross pattSe 
itself on one wing, and three small branches shooting 
out from each flag. It appears from Drayton, that 
the main standard of Henry Y. at the battle of Agin- 
court was borne upon a car ; and the reason which 
he assigns is, that it was too heavy to be carried 
otherwise. Sir S. R. Meyrick adds, that it preceded 
the royal presence. Edward I. had the arms of 
England, St. George, St. i^dmond, and St. Edward, 
on his standards, The flag or banner in the hands 



of princes, upon seals, denotes sovereign power, and 
was assumed by many lords in the twelfth and thir- 
teenth centuries." 

We observe that the invention of standards is 
ascribed to the Egyptians. Layard, in ^^ Nineveh, 
and its Bemains," says of the standards of the Assy- 
rians : — 

^' Standards were carried by the charioteers. In 
the sculptures, they have only two devices : one, a 
figure (probably that of the divinity) standing on a 
bull, and drawing a bow ; the other, two bulls running 
in opposite directions," probably, as is stated in a 
note, the symbols of war and peace. 

'^ These figures are inclosed in a circle, and fixed 
to the end of a long stafi* ornamented with streamers 
and tassels." Here we see the early use of pendants 
as emblems of supreme authority. In our own day, 

we frequently hear, Commodore 's broad pendant 

was hoisted on the ship . In Queen Anne's 

time, on the union of England and Scotland, we find 
the use of pendants by the ships of her subjects, ex- 
pressly prohibited in the following words : ^^Nor any 
kind of pendants whatsoever j or any other ensign 
than the ensign described in the side or margent 
hereof, which shall be worn instead of the ensign 
before this time [1707] usually worn in merchant 
vessels." In reference to the flags of the national 


vessels, the following language is used : " Our flags, 
jacks, and pendants, which, according to ancient 
usage^ have been appointed to a distinction for our 
ships." Every one will observe the distinction made 
in the case of the pendants, which were absolutely 
prohibited to the subjects. We return now to the 
consideration of the standards of the Assyrians. 
"The standards seem to have been partly supported 
by a rest in front of the chariot, and a long rod or 
rope connected them with the extremity of the pole. 
In a bas-relief of Khorsabad, this rod is attached to 
the top of the standard."* 

The reader will have observed what Fosbroke says 
of the introduction into England of a standard borne 
on a car, that it was in imitation of the eastern na- 
tions. In the case of the Romans, the force of this 
habit was even more strikingly illustrated. They at 
first used a bundle of hay or straw; as they extended 
their conquests over the neighboring colonists from 
Greece, and doubtless from Egypt, they assumed 
the wolf and other animals. The wolf, perhaps, re- 
ferred to the foster-mother of Romulus. As they 
extended their conquests further, they borrowed the 
custom of the Greeks, of placing a shield with the 

* " Standards, somewhat similar to those represented on the 
Assyrian bas-reliefs, were in use in Egypt. Some sacred animal 
or emblem was also generally placed upon them.'* 


image of a warlike deitj upon it on a spear, still, 
however, retaining the reference to the manipulus 
in the hand, above it. 

In the time of Marins, thej adopted the eagle 
with the thnnderbolt in its claws, the emblem of 
Jove. We are also told that different divisions had 
certain letters, frequently the name of the com- 
mander, inscribed on their standards. This practice 
was also introduced among the Romans from Greece. 
It was introduced among the Grecians by Alexander 
the Great, who observed it among the Persians and 
other eastern nations. Intoxicated with his triumphs, 
when he began to claim for himself a divine origin, 
he caused a standard to be prepared, inscribed with 
the title of "Son of Ammon," and planted it near 
the image of Hercules, which, as that of his tutelary 
deity, was the ensign of the Grecian host. In the 
same way, the Franks borrowed the eagle from the 

The same holds good of the dragon-standard, 
which, borrowed from the Dacians and other bar- 
barians, was for a long time the standard of the 
Western Empire, of England, and of Normandy. 

After the Crusades, however, the cross seems ta 
have taken a prominent place on the standards and 
banners of European nations. 

The double-headed eagle of Russia and Austria 


originated among the Romans, to indicate the sove- 
reignty of the world. When the empire of the 
Caesars was divided into the Western and Eastern 
Empires, this standard continued to be used in both 
those divisions. From the Eastern Empire it passed 
into the standard of Russia, on the marriage of Ivan 
I. with a Grecian princess. From the Western, with 
the title of Roman Emperor, it passed to Austria. 

From the above, we cannot fail to perceive, in the 
past as well as in the present, the tendency, through- 
out the world, to imitation, in the adoption of national 
ensigns; also, that the adoption of a particular en- 
sign marked some epoch in the history of the par- 
ticular nation which adopted it. 

Thus the various changes in the Roman standard 
marked the epochs of their conquest, first of the 
Greeks, then of the Barbarians. The adoption of the 
eagle by the Franks, their conquest of the Romans. 
The cross, the era of the Crusades. The double- 
headed eagle of Russia, the marriage of the Czar to 
the heiress of the Eastern Empire. That of Austria, 
the investiture of the emperors of Germany with the 
title of Roman Emperor, The present union of the 
crosses of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick, 
in the British ensign, reverting to the Crusades, in 
the members composing it, more directly refers to 
the union, first, of England and Scotland into the 

22 iNTBODucnoir. 

united kingdom of Great Britwi, and more recently, 
to the nnion of the kingdoms of Great Britain and 
Ireland, and hence is called The Chreat Union. 

The eagle of France, marked her republican era. 

Haying thus observed, in the adoption of ensigns 
by the principal nations of the world, the prevalence 
of certain general rules, viz. : A reference to their 
deity; the habit of imitating the ensigns of nations 
from which they spnmg, or which they conquered ; 
the custom of marking, by their standards, some 
epoch in their history; or these customs in combina- 
tion, may we not expect to find, in the adoption of 
our National Ensign, that it is not wholly an excep- 
tion to these general rules ? 


07 THE 


Adopting these general principles^ we find our- 
selyeSy in attempting to give a satisfactory account 
of the origin, adoption, and meaning of the devices 
embodied in the National Flag of the United States, 
obliged to describe the principal flags displayed dur- 
ing the Beyolution, which resulted in the independ- 
ence of those States ; to giye some account of the 
flags used by the colonists prior to that Revolution ; 
and to notice, though in a cursory manner, the na- 
tional flag of the mother country. 

To facilitate the consideration of our subject, we 
shall arrange the flags, mention of which we have 
met with, as displayed during our Revolution, in a 
table, chronologically; and shall number them, ac- 
cording to the date of the notice of them, 1, 2, 3, 4, 
&c., beginning in 1774. 

In this Table, we shall give their distinguishing 


devices; noticing them, when necessary, more at 
length as we proceed. 


1. "Union Flags."* — These flags are very frc- 
quently mentioned in the newspapers, in 1774, but 
no account is given of the devices upon them. To 
establish these devices, will be one of the principal 
objects of this inquiry. 

2. The standard of the Connecticut troops. — A 
letter, dated Wethersfield, Connecticut, April 23, 
1776, says : " We fix upon our standards and drums 
the colony arms, with the motto, ' Qui transtuUt sus- 
tinetj round it, in letters of gold, which we construe 
thus: ' God, who transplanted us hither, will support 
us.' "t The standards of the different regiments were 
distinguished by their color. Act of Provincial Con- 
gress of Connecticut, July 1, 1775 : " One standard 
for each regiment to be distinguished by their color j as 
follows^ viz. : for the seventh^ blue; for the eighth^ 
orange.' 'X 

3. The flag unfurled by General Israel Putnam, 
on Prospect Hill, July 18, 1775, which is thus de- 
scribed in a letter, dated 

* Siege of Boston, Frothingham, p. 104, note. 
f American Archives, 4th series, vol. ii. p. 863. 
X Ibid. p. 1582. 

\ '• 


" Cambridge, July 21, 1775. 

" Last Saturday, July 16, the several regiments 
quartered in this town being assembled upon the 
parade, the Rev. Dr. Langdon, President of the Col- 
lege, read to them * A Declaration, by the Repre- 
sentatives of the United Colonies of North America 
now met in General Congress at Philadelphia, set- 
ting forth the causes and necessity of taking up 
arms.' It was received with great applause; and the 
approbation of the army, with that of a great num- 
ber of other people, was immediately announced by 
three huzzas. His Excellency, the General, with 
several other general officers, &c., were present on 
the occasion." 

" Last Tuesday morning, July 18, according to 
orders issued the day before by Major-General Put- 
nam, all the continental troops under his immediate 
command assembled at Prospect Hill, when the De- 
claration of the Continental Congress was read ; 
after which, an animated and pathetic address to the 
army was made by the Rev. Mr. Leonard, chaplain 
to General Putnam's regiment, and succeeded by a 
pertinent prayer, when General Putnam gave the 
signal, and the whole army shouted their loud amen 
by three cheers ; immediately upon which a cannon 
was fired from the fort, and the standard lately sent 
to General Putnam was exhibited, flourishing in the 


air, bearing this motto ; on one side, ^ An Appeal to 
Heaven/ and, on the other side, ^ Qui transtuUt 

^^ The whole was conducted with the utmost de- 
cency, good order, and regularity, and the universal 
acceptance of all present; and the Philistines, on 
Bunker's Hill, heard the shout of the IsraeliteSj'^ 
and, being very fearful, paraded themselves in battle 
array, "t 

This flag bore on it the motto of Connecticut, 
" Qui tranatulit sustinety*' and the motto, "An Ap- 
peal to Heaven;" the latter of which is evidently 
adopted from the closing paragraph of the " Address 
of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, to their 
brethren in Great Britain,*' written shortly after the 
battle of Lexington, which ended thus : ^ Appealing 
to Heaven for the justice of our cause, we determine 
to die or be free ;' and which motto, under the form 
^Appeal to Heaven,' combined with a pine-tree, 
constituted the motto and device on the colors of the 
Massachusetts colonial cruisers. In this combination 
of the mottoes of Connecticut and Massachusetts, one 
can scarcely fail to perceive the germ of the emblem 
of union which was introduced into the flag, which, 

* General Putoam was named Israel. 

f American ArcMyes, 4th series, yol. ii. p. 1687. 


January 2, 1776, replaced the flag we have described 
above, on Prospect Hill. 

From the following notice of the flag displayed by 
General Putnam, July 18, 1775, we learn that it was 
a red flag. Before, however, giving the notice, we 
will state that, as early as the time of the Bomans, a 
red flag was the signal of defiance or battle ; thus, 
we are told : " When a general, after having con- 
sulted the auspices, had determined to lead forth his 
troops against the enemy, a red flag was displayed 
on a spear from the top of the JPrmtorium^ which 
was the signal to prepare for battle."t This accords 
with the account given of the display of the above 
flag, and corroborates the fact mentioned in the 
following extract from a letter of a captain of an 
English transport to his owners in London : — 

" Boston, Jan. 17, 1776. 

" I can see the rebels' camp very plain, whose 
colors, a little while ago, were entirely red ; but, on 
the receipt of the king's speech (which they burnt), 
they have hoisted the Union Flag, which is here sup- 
posed to intimate the union of the provinces. "| He 

* The General's tent. 

f Adams's Roman Antiquities, p. 322. 

{ American Archiyes, 4th series, yol. It. p. 711. 


probably could not perceive the mottoes referred to 
in the preceding letter, owing to the distance. 

4. The flag used at the taking of Fort Johnston, 
on James's Island, September 13, 1775. — " Colonel 
Moultrie, September 13 [1775], received an order 
from the Council of Safety for taking Fort Johnston, 
on James's Island." [S. C] " A flag being thought 
necessary for the purpose of signals. Colonel Moul- 
trie, who was requested by the Council of Safety to 
procure one, had a large blue flag made, with a 
crescent in one corner, to be in uniform with the 
troops. This was the first American flag displayed 
in South Carolina."* 

Of the crescent, we have the following interesting 
account : — 

"As is well known, the crescent, or, as it is usually 
designated, the crescent montant^ has become the 
symbol of the Turkish Empire, which has thence been 
frequently styled the Empire of the Crescent. This 
symbol, however, did not originate with the Turks. 
Long before their conquest of Constantinople, the 
crescent had been used as emblematic of sovereignty, 
as may be seen from the still-existing medals struck 
in honor of Augustus, Trajan, and others ; and it 
formed from all antiquity the symbol of Byzantium. 

* Holmes's Annals, vol. ii. p. 227. 


On the overthrow of this empire by Mohammed II., 
the Turks, regarding the crescent, which everywhere 
met their eye, as a good omen, adopted it as their 
chief bearing."* It was, doubtless, " as the emblem 
of sovereignty," that it was adopted by Colonel 

5. The flag of the floating batteries. — Colonel 
Joseph Reed to Colonel Glover and Stephen Moylan, 
says: "Head-quarters, October 20, 1775: Please 
to fix upon some particular color for a flag, and a 
signal by which our vessels may know one another. 
What do you think of a flag with a white ground, a 
tree in the middle, the motto, * Appeal to Heaven?* 
This is the flag of our floating batteries."t . 

6. The flag called The Chreat Union Flag^ hoisted 
January 2, 1776, the day which gave being to the 
new army. — General Washington's letter of Janu- 
ary 4, 1776, to Joseph Reed.f This flag, which we 
shall designate in this way, was the basis of our 
National Flag of the present day. 

7. ~ The flag presented by Colonel Gadsden, a 
member of the Naval Committee of the Continental 
Congress, to the Provincial Congress of South 
Carolina, February 9, 1776, as the standard to be 

* Brande's Dictionary of Literature, &c. Crescent 
f American Archiyes, 4th series, yol. iii. p. 1126. 
J Ibid. vol. iv. p. 670. 



used by the Commander-in-chief of the American 
Navy, " being a yellow field, with a lively represent- 
ation of a rattlesnake in the middle, in the attitude 
of going to strike; and the words underneath, 
"Don't tread on me."* 

8. The flag of the cruisers of the colony of Mas- 
sachusetts. — " And the colors to be a white flag with 
a green pine-tree, and an inscription, ^Appeal to 
Heaven.' " — ^Resolution of Massachusetts Provincial 
Congress, April 29, 1776. f 

9. The National Flag of the United States, " The 
Stars and Stripes," adopted as such by a Besolution 
of Congress, passed June 14, 1777. — ^^Eesolved, 
That the flag of the Thirteen United States be thir- 
teen stripes, alternate red and white ; that the Union 
be thirteen stars, white, in a blue field, representing 
a new constellation. "J 

This Resolution, though passed June 14, 1777, 
was not made public until September 3, 1777. || 

With this Table before us, we shall proceed to con- 
sider certain badges intimately connected with the 
devices on the national flag of England, afterwards 
embodied in the national flag of Great Britain, a 

* American Archives, 4th series, vol. v. p. 668. 
t Ibid. vol. V. p. 1299. 
J Journal of Congress, vol. ii. p. 166. 
Boston Gazette and Country Journal, Sept. 16, 1777. 


modification of which we shall show was, for a time, 
the flag of the United States, and the basis of the 
"Stars and Stripes.'' 

"In the first crusade, the Scots, according to 
Sir George Mackenzie, were distinguished by the 
Cross of St. Andrew; the French, by a white cross; 
and the Italians, by a blue one. The Spaniards, 
according to Columbiere, bore a red cross, which, in 
the third crusade (a. d. 1189), was appropriated by 
the French, the Flemings using a green cross, and 
the English a white one. The adherents of Simon 
Montfort, the rebellious earl of Leicester, assumed 
the latter as their distinguishing mark, thus making 
the national cognizance the badge of a faction. 

"The cross of St. George has been the badge, 
both of our kings and the nation, at least from the 
time of Edward III. Its use was for a while nearly 
superseded by the roses, but revived upon the termi- 
nation of the wars between the rival houses. It still 
continues to adorn the banner of England."* 

Of the arms and banner of St. George, we have 
the following account : " Saynte George, whyche had 
whyte arms with a red cross." (Fig. 1, Plate I.) 

" This blessed and holy martyr Saynte George is 

* Parker. Terms used in British Heraldry, p. 40. 


patrone of the realme of England ; and ye crye of 
men of warre."* 

"With reference to the cross of St. George, Sir 
N. H. Nicholas observes : * That in the fourteenth and 
subsequent centuries, even if the custom did not pre- 
vail at a much earlier period, every English soldier 
was distinguished by wearing that simple and ele- 
gant badge over his armor.' 

" The following extract," he adds, " from the 
ordinances made for the government of the army 
w^ith which Bichard 11. invaded Scotland in 1386, 
and which were also adopted by Henry V., will best 
show the regulations on the subject. 

" Also, that everi man of what estate, condition, or 
nation thei be of, so that he be of oure partie, here a 
signe of the armes of Saint George, large, both 
before and behynde, upon parell that yf he be 
slayne or wounded to deth, he that hath so done to 
him shall not be put to deth, for default of the cross 
that he lacketh. And that non enemy do here the 
same token or cross of St. George, notwithstanding 
if he be prisoner, upon payne of deth." 

" The banner of St. George is white, charged with 
the red cross, "f 

* Parker. Terms used in British Heraldry, p. 148. 
t Ibid. p. 149. 


^^ Banner. A banner is a square flag painted or 
embroidered with arms, and of a size proportioned to 
the rank of the bearer."* — See the Banner of St. 
George, Fig. 2. Plate I. 

We now come to the description of the arms and 
banner of Saint Andrew. The cross of St. Andrew 
is called a saltire, and is thus described : — 

" Saltire, or saltier. This honorable ordinary pro- 
bably represents the cross whereon St. Andrew was 
crucified.' *t 

" Andrew, S., the Apostle : the patron saint of 

'^ The arms attributed to him, and emblazoned on 
the banner bearing his name, are azure, a saltire 
argent.''J — See Fig. 3, Plate I., Arms of Saint 
Andrew ; and for the banner of Saint Andrew, Fig. 
4, Plate I. 

^' Union Jack: the national flag of Great Britain 
and Ireland. 

^' The ancient national flag of England was the 
banner of St. George (argent, a cross gules), to 
which the banner of St. Andrew (azure, a saltire 
argent), was united (instead of being quartered, 
according to ancient custom), in pursuance of a royal 

* Parker. Terms used in British Heraldry, p. 42. 
t Ibid. p. 273. 
I Ibid. p. 9. 


proclamation, dated April 12, 1606. An extract 
from this proclamation follows :— 

" Whereas, some difference hath arisen between 
our subjects of South and North Britain, travelling 
by seas, about the bearing of their flags : for the 
avoiding of all such contentions hereafter, we have, 
with the advice of our council, ordered, that hence- 
forth all our subjects of this Isle and kingdom of 
Great Britain, and the members thereof, shall bear 
in their maintop the red cross, commonly called St. 
George's Cross, and the white cross, commonly called 
St. Andrew's Cross, joined together, according to a 
form made by our heralds, and sent by us to our 
admiral, to be published to our said subjects ; and in 
their foretop our subjects of South Britain shall 
wear the red cross only, as they were wont ; and the 
subjects of North Britain, in their foretop, the white 
cross only, as they were accustomed."* 

The union of the crosses described above may 
naturally be called the king's eolorsy though in fact, 
as James was king both of Scotland and England, 
the national flags of either of those kingdoms would 
also be the king's colors, in an extended sense ; but 
would be likely to be designated as the red or white 
crosses, or the crosses of St. George or St. Andrew, 

* Parker. Terms used in British Heraldry, p. 815. 


labile this form prepared by the heralds, and only 
prescribed for " subjects travelling by seas/' would 
be by those subjects called, par exeelUncey the king's 

"There is," says Sir N. H. Nicholas, "every 
reason to believe that the flag arranged by the her- 
alds on this occasion was the same as, on the union 
with Scotland [1707], became the national banner." 
It may be emblazoned azure, a saltire argent sur- 
mounted by a cross gules, edged of the second. (See 
Fig. 5, Plate I.) The white edging was no doubt 
intended to prevent one color from being placed upon 
another ; but this precaution was, to say the least, 
unnecessary ; for surely no heraldic rule would have 
been broken, if the red cross had been placed upon 
the white saltire. The contact of the red cross and 
blue field would have been authorized by numerous 
precedents. This combination was constituted the 
national flag of Great Britain by a royal proclama- 
tion, issued July 28, 1707."* 

"No further change was made until the union 

* Note by Authoe. — This white edging would, however, show 
the nnion of the two flags, which otherwise might not haye been 
apparent. We are told, in De Foe*s History of the ^nion, that great 
jealousy for the ancient banners of their respectiye kingdoms, was 
shown both by Scots and English. 


with Ireland, January 1, 1801, previous to which 
instructions were given to combine the banner of St. 
Patrick (argent, a saltire gules) with the crosses of 
St. George and St. Andrew. In obedience to these 
instructions, the present National Flag of Great 
Britain and Ireland was produced."* — See Fig. 6, 
Plate I. 

We would observe that, as this last form of the 
union was only adopted in 1801, which wa« the first 
time that a change was made in the flags proscribed 
in 1707, it is only of interest as completing the ac- 
count of the Union Jack. 

" The word Jack is most probably derived from 
the surcoat, charged with a red cross, anciently used 
by the English soldiery. This appears to have been 
called a jacque, whence the word jacket, anciently 
written jacquit.'** 

We desire to impress this last remark upon the 
mind of the reader, as, in the course of our inquiry, 
we shall meet more than once with allusions to the 
"Jack,'* the " St. George's Jack," &c., and to invite 
special attention to the fact that the badge on the 
clothes of the soldiery furnished a badge to the flag 
of their country. Thus the cross of St. Andrew, worn 
by the Scots, was emblazoned on the banner of Scot- 

* Parker. Terms used in British Heraldry, pp. 316-16. 


land, and the cross of St. George, worn by the Eng- 
lish soldiery, was emblazoned on the banner of 

This last, the national flag of England, the Bed 
Cross flag, has now, for us, especial interest. 

A singular circumstance furnishes us with proof 
that this Bed Cross flag was in use in the colonies. 
We find in the " Journal of John Winthrop, Esq., the 
first governor of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay,'* 
the following memoranda in reference to it : — 

"Anno 1634, November 5.] At the Court of As- 
sistants, complaint was made by one of the country 
(viz., Bichard Brown, of Watertown, in the name of 
the rest), that the ensign at Salem was defaced, viz. : 
one part of the red cross taken out. Upon this, an 
attachment was issued against Bichard Davenport, 
ensign-bearer, to appear at the next court to answer. 
Much matter was made of this, as fearing it would 
be taken as an act of rebellion, or of like high nature, 
in defacing the king's colors;*' p. e. the Banner of 
St. George;] "though the truth were, it was done 
upon this opinion, that the red cross was given to 
the King of England, by the pope, as an ensign of 
victory, and so a superstitious thing, and a relic 
of antichrist. What proceeding was hereupon, will 
appear after, at next court in the first month ; for 


by reason of the great snows and frosts, we used not 
to keep courts in the three winter months."* 

"Anno 1685, mo. 1, 4.] A General Court at 

" Mr. Endecott was called to answer for defacing 
the cross in the ensign ; but, because the court could 
not agree about the thing, whether the ensigns should 
be laid bj, in regard that many refused to follow 
them, the whole case was deferred till the next gene- 
ral court ; and the commissioners for military affairs 
gave order, in the mean time, that all ensigns should 
be laid aside," kc.f 

" Anno 1635, mo. 3, 6.] A General Court was 
held at Newtown, where John Haynes, Esq., was 
chosen governor ; Bichard Bellingham, Esq., deputy 
governor ; and Mr. Hough, and Mr. Dummer, chosen 
assistants to the former ; and Mr. Ludlow, the late 
deputy, left out of the magistracy. The reason was, 
partly, because the people would exercise their abso- 
lute power^ &c., and partly by some speeches of the 
deputy, who protested against the election of the 
governor as void, for that the deputies of the several 
towns had agreed upon the election before they came, 
&c. But this was generally discussed, and the elec- 
tion adjudged good. "J 

* Winthrop*s New England, vol. i. p. 146, 

t Ibid. vol. i. pp. 156-6. J Ibid. vol. i. pp. 168. 


" Mr. Endecott was also left out, and called into 
question about the defacing the cross in the ensign ; 
and a committee was chosen, viz. : every town chose 
one (which yet were voted for by all the people), and 
the magistrates chose four, who, taking the charge 
to consider the offence, and the censure due to it, 
and to certify the court, after one or two hours time, 
made report to the court, that they found the offence 
to be great, viz. : rash and without discretion, taking 
upon him more authority than he had, and not seek- 
ing advice of the court, &c. ; uncharitable, in that he, 
judging the cross, &c., to be a sin, did content himself 
to have reformed it at Salem, not taking care that 
others might be brought out of it also ; laying a blemish, 
also, upon the rest of the magistrates, as if they would 
suffer idolatry, &c., and giving occasion to the state, 
of England to think ill of us. For which they ad- 
judged him worthy admonition, and to be disabled 
for one year from bearing any public office ; declining 
any heavier sentence because they were persuaded he 
did it out of tenderness of conscience, and not of evil 

" The matter of altering the cross in the ensign 
was referred to the next meeting (the court having 
adjourned for three weeks), it being propounded to 
turn it to the red and white rose, &c." 

* Winthrop's New England, toL i. p. 158. 


[We have seen, under our first notice of the Cross 
of St. George, that " its use was, for a while, nearly 
superseded (in England) by the roses, but revived 
upon the termination of the wars between the rival 
houses.*'] " And every man was to deal with his 
neighbors to still their minds, who stood so stiff for 
the cross, until we should fully agree about it, which 
was expected, because the ministers had promised to 
take pains about it, and to write into England to have 
the judgment of the most wise and godly there."* 

"Anno 1635, mo. 12, 1.] At the last General 
Court it was referred to the military commissioners to 
appoint colors for every company ; who did accord- 
ingly, and left out the cross in all of them, appoint- 
ing the king's arms to be put into that of Castle 
Island, and Boston to be the first company.^f 

"Anno 1636, mo. 3, 15.] Here arrived a ship 
called the St. Patrick, belonging to Sir Thomas 
Wentworth [afterwards the great Earl of Strafford], 
deputy of Ireland [i. e. viceroy], one Palmer, master. 
When she came near Castle Island, the lieutenant 
of the fort went aboard her and made her strike her 
flag, which the master took as a great injury, and 
complained of it to the magistrates, who, calling the 

* Winthrop*s New England, vol. i. p. 158. 
t Ibid. vol. i. p. 180. 


lieutenant before them, heard the cause and declared 
to the master that he had no commission so to do. 
And because he had made them strike to the fort 
(which had then no color abroad), they tendered the 
master such satisfaction as he desired, Trhich was 
only this, that the lieutenant, aboard their ship, 
should acknowledge his error, that so all the ship's 
company might receive satisfaction, lest the lord 
deputy should have been informed that we had offered 
that discourtesy to his ship which we had never 
offered to any before." 

"Mo- 3, 31.] One Miller, master's mate in the 
Hector, spake to some of our people aboard his ship, 
that, because we had not the king's colors at our 
fort, we were all traitors and rebels, &c. The 
governor sent for the master, Mr. Feme, and ac- 
quainted him with it, who promised to deliver him 
to us. Whereupon, we spnt the inarshal and four 
sergeants to the ship for him, but the master not 
being aboard they would not deliver him; where- 
upon, the ipaster went himself and brought him to 
the court ; and, the words being proved against him 
by two witnesses, he w^s committed. The next day 
the master, to pacify his men, who were in a great 
tumult, requested he might be delivered to him, and 
did undertake to briqg him before us again the 
day after, which was granted him, and he brought 



him to US at the time appointed. Then, in the pre- 
sence of all the rest of the masters, he acknowledged 
his offence, and set his hand to a submission, and 
was discharged." 

We will break the thread of this extract to intro- 
duce this curious paper, which, taken from the 
Colonial Recordy i. 179, we find given at length in 
a note to Winthrop's New England. 

"Whereas I, Thomas Millerd, have given out 
most false and reproachful speeches against his 
majesty's lojal and faithful subjects, dwelling in the 
Massachusetts Bay in America, saying that they 
were all traitors and rebels, and that I would affirm 
so much before the governor himself, which expres- 
sions I do confess (and so desire may be conceived) 
did proceed from the rashness and distemper of my 
own brain, without any just ground or cause so to 
think or speak, for which my unworthy and sinful 
carriage being called in question, I do justly stand 
committed. My humble request, therefore, is that, 
upon this my full and ingenuous recantation of this 
my gross failing, it would please the governor and 
the rest of the assistants to accept of this my hum- 
ble submission, to pass by my fault, and to dismiss 
me from further trouble; and this, my free and vol- 
untary confession, I subscribe with my hand, this 
9tb June, 1636.'' 


We now resume our extract from Winthrop. 

" Then the governor desired the masters that they 
would deal freely, and tell us, if they did take any 
offence, and what they required of us. They an- 
swered, that in regard they should be examined upon 
their return, what colors they saw here ; they did 
desire that the king's colors might be spread at our 
fort. It was answered, we had not the king's colors. 
Thereupon, two of them did offer them freely to us." 
This was about June, 1636, and we have seen that 
it was only in the year 1635, that the commissioners 
for military a;ffairs had ordered the red cross ensigns 
to be laid aside ; hence, it is altogether improbable 
that they could not have procured one of these, but, 
what we have styled the king's colors 'par excellence^ 
being prescribed only for ships, was not likely to be 
owned by the colonial authorities. Its device, a modi- 
fication of the cross, about which the question had 
arisen, might possibly have served as a device to re- 
lieve the tenderness of the consciences of the autho- 
rities, and would also enable the masters to say, on 
their return, that they had seen the king's colors 
spread at the castle at Boston. 

As we see above, "it was answered we had not the 
king's colors. Thereupon, two of them did offer 
them freely to us. We replied, that for our part, 
we were fully persuaded that the cross in the ensign 


was idolatrous, and, therefore, might not set it up in 
our ensign; but, because the fort was the king's, and 
maintained in his name, we thought his own colors 
might be spread there. So the governor accepted 
the colors of Captain Palmer, and promised they 
should be set up at Castle Island. We had con- 
ferred over night with Mr. Cotton, &c., about the 
point. The governor, and Mr. Dudley, and Mr. 
Cotton, were of opinion that they might be set up at 
the fort upon this distinction, that it was maintained 
in the king's name. Others, not being so persuaded, 
answered that the governor and Mr. Dudley, being 
two of the council, and being persuaded of the law- 
fulness, &c., might use their power to set them up. 
Some others being not so persuaded, could not join 
in the act, yet would not oppose, as being doubtful, 

*' Anno 1636, mo. 4, 16.] The governor, with con- 
sent of Mr. Dudley, gave warrant to Lieutenant 
Morris, to spread the king's colors at Castle Island, 
when the ships passed by. It was done at the re- 
quest of the masters of the ten ships which were then 
here ; yet with this protestation, that we held the cross 
in the ensign idolatrous, and, therefore, might not 
set it up in our own ensigns; but this being kept as 

* Winthrop's New England, vol. i. p. 187. 


the king's fort, the governor aiid some others were 
of opinion that his own colors might be spread upon 
it. The colors were given ns by Captain Palmer, 
and the governor, in requital, sent him three beaver- 

The following order of the Court of Massachusetts, 
leads us to conclude that these colors, or those con- 
taining the king's arms, were continued in use until 
they were likely to bring the colony under the dis- 
pleasure of the Parliament of E&gland, which, in 
arms against the king, used the Red Cross flag, or 
St. George's banner. We then find the colony of 
Massachusetts giving orders on this matter as fol- 
lows : — 


"Forasmuch as the court conceives the old English 
colors now used by the Parliament of England to be 
a necessary badge of distinction betwixt the English 
and other nations in all places of the world, till the 
state of England shall alter the same, which we 
much desire, we being of the same nation, have^ 
therefore, ordered that the captain of the castle 
shall presently advance the aforesaid colors of Eng- 
land upon the castle upon all necessary occasions." 

* Winthrop's New England, vol. ii. p. 344. 
f Hazard, toI. i. p. 664. 


These extracts show the importance attached to 
colors in those times. 

This question, and indeed all questions, as to the 
flags to he used hoth at sea and land hy the subjects 
of Great Britain, and the dominions thereunto 
belonging, were, however, set at rest, by the 1st 
article of the treaty of union between Scotland and 
England, from which fact the flags then prescribed 
were called Union flags. 

" Act of Parliament ratifying and approving the 
treaty of the two kingdoms of Scotland and England, 
Jan. 16, 1707.'' 

^^ I. Article. That the two kingdoms of Scotland 
and England shall, upon the first day of May next, 
ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be united 
into one kingdom by the name of Great Britain ; and 
that the ensigns armorial of the said united kingdom 
be such as her majesty shall appoint ; and the crosses 
of St. Andrew and St. George be conjoined in such 
manner as her majesty shall think fit, and used in 
all flags, banners, standards, and ensigns, both at 
sea and land."** 

Under the head of Union Jack, we have shown how 
these crosses were conjoined. We now give a por- 

* History of the Union of Scotland and England, bj Panl. De 
Foe, p. 528. 


tion of the proclamation of July 28, 1707, referred 
to in that account of the Union Jack. 


"Declaring what ensigns and colors shall be borne 
at sea in merchant ships, and vessels belonging to 
any of her majesty's subjects of Great Britain, and 
the dominions thereunto belonging. 

"Anne R. 

" Whereas, by the first article of the treaty of union, 
as the same hath been ratified and approved by several 
acts of Parliament, the one made in our Parliament 
of England, and the other in our Parliament of Scot- 
land, it was provided and agreed that the ensigns 
armorial of our kingdom of Great Britain be such as 
we should appoint, and the crosses of St. George and 
St. Andrew conjoined in such manner as we should 
think fit, and used in all flags, banners, standards, 
and ensigns, both at sea and land, we have therefore 
thought fit, by, and with the advice of our privy 
council, to order and appoint the ensign described on 
the side or margent hereof [see Fig. 7, Plate I.], to 
be worn on board of all ships or vessels belonging to 
any of our subjects whatsoever; and to issue this, 
our royal proclamation, to notify the same to all our 
loving subjects, hereby strictly charging and com- 
manding the masters of all merchant ships and ves- 


sels belonging to anj of our sabjects, whether em- 
ployed in our service or otherwise, and all other 
persons whom it may concern, to wear the said 
ensign on board their ships and vessels. And where- 
as, divers of our subjects have presumed, on board 
their ships, to wear our flags, jacks, and pendants, 
which, according to ancient usage, have been 
appointed to a distinction for our ships, and many 
times thinking to avoid the punishment due for the 
same, have worn flags, jacks, and pendants in shape 
and mixture of colors, so little different from ours, as 
not without difficulty to be distinguished therefrom, 
which practice has been found attended with mani- 
fold inconveniences : for prevention of the same for 
the future, we do, therefore, with the advice of our 
privy council, hereby strictly charge and command 
all our subjects whatsoever, that they do not presume 
to wear on any of their ships or vessels, our jack, 
commonly called the Union Jack, nor any pendants, 
nor any such colors as are usually borne by our ships 
without particular warrant for their so doing from us, 
or our high admiral of Great Britain, or the commis- 
sioners for executing the office of high admiral for 
the time being ; and do hereby further command all 
our loving subjects, that, without such warrant as 
aforesaid, they presume not to wear on board their 
ships or vessels, any flags, jacks, pendants, or colors. 


made in imitation of ours, or any kind of pendant, 
whatsoever, or any other ensign, than the ensign 
described in the side or margent hereof, which shall 
be worn instead of the ensign before this time usually 
worn in merchant vessels. Saving that, for the better 
distinction of such ships as shall have commissions of 
letters of mart or reprisals against the enemy, and 
any other ships or vessels which may be employed 
by principal officers and commissioners of our navy, 
the principal officers of our ordnance, the commis- 
sioners for victualling our navy, the commissioners 
for our customs, and the commissioners for transpor- 
tation for our service — relating particularly to those 
offices our royal will and pleasure is. That all such 
ships as have commissions of letters of mart and re- 
prisals, shall, besides the colors or ensign hereby 
appointed to be worn by merchant ships, wear a red 
jack, with a Union Jack described in a canton at the 
upper corner thereof, next the staff [see Fig. 1, 
Plate II.], and that such ships and vessels as shall be 
employed for our service by the principal officers and 
commissioners of our navy, &c. [same enumeration 
as before], shall wear a red jack with a Union Jack 
in a canton at the upper corner thereof, next the 
staff, as aforesaid; and in the other part of the said 
jack, shall be described the seal used in such of the 
respective offices aforesaid, by which the said ships 


and Yeflselfl sliall be employed. [This flag was the 
same as Fig. 1, Plate II., except the seal of the office 
by which employed*] And we do strictly charge and 
command, &c., (and the residae orders, seizure of ves- 
sels not obeying this proclamation, by wearing other 
ensigns, &c., and to return the names of sadi ships 
and vessels, and orders strict inqniry into any viola- 
tion of the proclamation, and then directs it to take 
effect in the Channel or British seas and in the North 
Sea, after twelve days from the date of the procla- 
mation, and from the mouth ot the Channel unto 
Cape St. Vincent after six weeks from the date, and 
beyond the cape, and on this side the equinoctial 
line, as well in the ocean and Mediterranean as else- 
where, after ten weeks from the date, and beyond 
the line, after the space of eight months from the 
date of these presents.) 

" Given at our court at Windsor, the 28tb day of 
July, in the sixth year of our reign.* 

"god save the queen." 

In a description of Boston Harbor, in 1720, thir- 
teen years after the date of this proclamation, we learn 
that, " to prevent any possible surprise from an enemy, 

* The Boston News Letter, No. 197, from Monday ^ Jan. 19, to 
Monday, Jan. 26, 1707. 


there is a light-house built on a rock appearing above 
water, about three' long leagues from the town, which, 
in time of war, makes a signal to the castle, and the 
castle to the town, by hoisting and lowering the 
Union flag bo many times as there are ships 

After haying given the first article of the treaty, 
and the above proclamation, this description is only 
useful as proving that the term " Union Flag" was 
the familiar one applied to describe the flags esta- 
blished under the union, as well in the colonies as the 
mother country, and explains the following note in 
Frothingham's Siege of Boston. 

Frothingham says: " In 1774, there are frequent 
notices of Union flags in the newspapers, but I 
have not met with any description of the devices on 
them.'^t After the history of Union flags already 
given, this will not appear surprising; for who, 
in our day, speaking of the ^' Stars and Stripes,'' 
would pause to describe its devices. We, however, 
are inclined to the opinion that the flags spoken of 
in the newspapers, referred to by Mr, Frothingham, 
were the ensigns described in the proclamation of 
Queen Anne, as being the common ensign of the 

* Neal's History of New England, p. 586. 
f Siege of Boston, p. 104, note. 


commercial marine of '^ Great Britain, and the 
dominions thereof." For, as such, they must have 
heen more easily procurable than the Union Jacks, 
and more familiar to the people, and therefore would 
appeal with most force to the popular sentiment. 

That this was the case in the colony of New York, 
we learn from the following : " In March, 1775, * a 
Union flag with a red field' was hoisted at New York 
upon the liberty-pole, bearing the inscription * George 
Bex, and the Liberties of America,' and, upon the 
reverse, * No Popery.' "* With the exception of 
the mottoes, this was the same flag as is represented. 
Fig. 7, Plate I. 

Frothingham gives us to understand that they 
werD displayed on liberty-^poles and on the famous 
" Liberty Tree" on Boston Common. In this con- 
nection, we will quote a few lines from a letter, dated 
Philadelphia, December 27, 1776, to show the tem- 
per of the public mind at that time, and to indicate 
the name given to the colonies, whose flag we are 
now about to consider. 

* T. Westcott, Notes and Queries. Literftry World, Oct. 2, X852, 



" Philadelphia, December 27, 1775. 

" Those who have the general welfare of the 
United English Colonies in North America sincerely 
at heart, who wish to see peace restored, and her 
liberties established on a solid foundation, may, at 
present, be divided into two classes, viz. : those who 
* look forward to an independency as the only state in 
which they can perceive any security for our liber- 
ties and privileges, and those who Hhink it not 
impossible that Britain and America may yet be 

'^ If the present struggle should end in the total 
independence of America, which is not impossible, 
every one will acknowledge the necessity of framing 
what may be called the ^ Constitution of the United 
English Colonies.' If, on the other hand, it should 
terminate in a reunion with Great Britain, there yet 
appears so evident a necessity of such a constitution 
that every good man must desire it.*** 

This letter shows the importance the Union of the 
Colonies, lately entered into, held in the mind of the 
public. Prior to its being entered into, its necessity 
was thus forcibly indicated to the public mind. The 

* American Archiyes, 4th series, vol. iv. p. 407. 



newspapers commonly bore the device of a disjointed 
snake, represented as divided into thirteen portions. 
Each portion bearing the initials of one of the colo- 
nies, and under it the motto, "Join, or die." Thus 
impressed, we can readily perceive how naturally 
they seized upon the flag in use in the mother coun- 
try and its dominions, as an emblem of union among 
the members of that mother country, to indicate the 
necessity of it among the colonies, and, by displaying 
it from liberty-poles, &;c., indicated the object for 
which union was necessary, viz. : to secure the liberty 
of British subjects. 

The first authentic account of the display of the 
Union flag, as the flag of the united colonies, is from 
the pen of General Washington, in a letter addressed 
to Colonel Joseph Beed, his military secretary. 

" Cambridqe, January 4, 1776. 

" Deab sir : We are at length favored with a 
sight of his majesty's most gracious speech, breathing 
sentiments of tenderness and compassion for his de- 
luded American subjects. The echo is not yet come 
to hand, but we know what it must be ; and, as Lord 
North said (and we ought to have believed and acted 
accordingly), we now know the ultimatum of British 
justice. The speech I send you. A volume of them 
was sent out by the Boston gentry ; and, farcical 



enough, we gave great joy to them, without knowing 
or intending it ; for, on that day, the day which 
gave being to the new army, but before the procla- 
mation came to hand, we had hoisted the Union flag 
in compliment to the united colonies. But, behold ! 
it was received in Boston as a token of the deep im- 
pression the speech had made upon us, and as a sig- 
nal of submission. So we hear, by a person out of 
Boston, last night. By this time, I presume, they 
begin to think it strange that we have not made a 
formal surrender of our lives.'' 

[From Philadelphia Grazette], note to the above, in 
American Archives. 

" Philadelphia, January 16, 1776. 

" Our advices conclude with the following anec- 
dote : That, upon the king's speech arriving at Bos- 
ton, a great number of them were reprinted and sent 
out to our lines on the 2d of January, which, being 
also the day of forming the new army, The Great 
Union Flag was hoisted on Prospect Hill, in compli- 
ment to the United Colonies. This happening soon 
after the speeches were delivered at Roxbury, but 
before they were received at Cambridge, the Boston 
gentry supposed it to be a token of the deep impres- 
sion the speech had made, and a signal of submission. 
That they were much disappointed at finding several 


a surrender, with which thej had begun to flatter 

We observe, in General Washington's letter, that 
the Americans, ^^ farcical enough," ^'without knowing 
or intending it," led the Boston gentry to imagine 
them about to surrender, because a Union flag was 
displayed, which was only displayed in compliment to 
the United Colonies on the day the army, organized 
under the orders of Congress, subsequent to the union 
of the thirteen colonies, came into being. And, in 
the extract from the newspaper account of this, that 
the flag was displayed on Prospect Hill, and that it 
must have been a peculiarly marked Union flag, to be 
called The Great Union Flag. As this was the 
name given to the national banner of Great Britain, 
this indicates this flag as the national banner of the 
United Colonies. Lieutenant Carter, a British officer, 
very naturally explains both these circumstances. 
He was on Charlestown Heights, and says : January 
26, 1776 : ^^ The king's speech was sent by a flag to 
them on the 1st inst. In a short time after they re- 
ceived it, they hoisted an Union flag (above the con- 
tinental with thirteen stripes) at Mount Pisgah ; 
their citadel fired thirteen guns, and gave the like 
number of cheers."* 

. * Siege of Boston, p. 283. 


This account of the flag, from Lieut. Carter, is cor- 
roborated by the following from the captain of an 
English transport, to his owners in London, when 
taken in connection with the extract subjoined to it, 
taken from the British Annual Register for 1776. 
The captain writes : — 

" Boston, Jan. 17, 1776. 

" I can see the rebels* camp very plain, whose co- 
lors, a little while ago, were entirely red ; but, on 
the receipt of the king's speech (which they burnt), 
they have hoisted the Union Flag, which is here sup- 
posed to intimate the union of the provinces."* 

The Annual Register says : " The arrival of a 
copy of the king's speech, with an account of the 
fate of the petition from the Continental Congress, 
is said to have excited the greatest degree of rage 
and indignation among them ; as a proof of which, 
the former was publicly burnt in the camp ; and they 
are said, on this occasion, to have changed their co- 
lors from a plain red ground, which they had hitherto 
used, to a flag with thirteen stripes, as a symbol of 
the number and union of the colonies. "f 

We have already shown that the first flag spoken 
of in both the above accounts (Flag No. 3) in our 

* American Archives, 4th series, vol. iv. p. 711. 
f British Annual Register, 1776, p. 147. ' 



Table, bore certain mottoes ; and not being precise 
in the description of the flag, which for months had 
been displayed before their eyes, we may expect in- 
accuracies in the description of a flag newly presented 
to them, and which, even to an officer on Charles- 
town Heights, who, as appears, was at some pains to 
describe it, appeared to be two flags ; and remember* 
ing that this flag was supposed to be displayed on 
the receipt of the king's speech, the following ac- 
count of the colors of British regiments explains why 
it was especially regarded by the British as a token 
of submission. 

" The king's, or first color of every regiment, is to 
be the Great Union throughout. 

" The second color is to be the color of the facing 
of the regiment, with the Union in the upper canton, 
except those regiments which are faced with red, 
white, or black. 

" The first standard. Guidon, or color of regiments 
of the line, is not to be carried by any guard but 
that of the King, Queen, Prince of Wales, Com- 
mander-in-chief, or Admiral of the Fleet, being of 
the royal family ; and, except in those cases, it is 
always to remain with the regiment."* 

From the above we see that, to the mind of a 

* King's Regulations for the British Armj, CoIchts, &o. 


British officer^ the Union flag, supposed to have 
been displayed in connection with the receipt of the 
king's speechy above a flag with thirteen stripes, 
would indicate an acknowledgment of the supremacy 
of the king over the United Colonies, supposed to be 
represented in the thirteen stripes. 

Without further proof, therefore, we may conclude 
that the "Union" flag, displayed by General Wash- 
ington, was the union of the crosses of St. G-eorge 
and St. Andrew, with thirteen stripes through the 
field of the flag. (See Fig. 2, Plate IL) 

On the evacuation of Boston by the British, this 
standard was, on the entrance of the American 
army into Boston, carried by Ensign Richards.* 

While we may fairly infer from General Washing- 
ton's letter, that this emblem of union had presented 
itself to his mind as such, we may also infer from his 
not describing its accompanying devices, to mark the 
compliment to the United Colonies, that he supposed 
Colonel Joseph Reed, his military secretary, fully 
acquainted with them ; and from this we may con- 
clude Colonel Reed had something to^ do with its 
preparation. This conclusion is strengthened by the 
fact, that Colonel Joseph Reed was Secretary to the 
Committee of Conference sent by Congress to ar- 

* American Archiyes, 4th series, yoL y. p. 428. 


range with General Washington the details of the 
organization of the army, which went into being 
January 2, 1776. And, at the very time that Com- 
mittee was in session at the camp at Cambridge, we 
find Colonel Reed haying the subject of flags under 
consideration. To the reply to a letter written by 
him at that time, we may possibly trace the origin 
of the use of a modification of the British ensign, 
a drawing of which is given under Queen Anne's 
proclamation before quoted, as the flag of the United 
Colonies. And we shall give good reasons to con- 
clude that this modification consisted in applying to 
its red field a sufficient number of white stripes, to 
divide the whole into thirteen stripes, alternate red 
and white, as above shown ; and we will show the 
propriety of this by establishing the fact that a 
stripe was the badge of rank in the ununiformed 
army that assembled about Boston in defence of 

Colonel Joseph Reed, Secretary to the Committee 
of Conference from Congress, and Military Secretary 
of General Washington, the Committee being then 
in session, wrote, October 20, 1776 : " Please fix 
upon some particular color for a flag and a signal by 
which our vessels may know one another.* What 

* From this, we may justly conclude that the Committee of Con- 
ference, composed of Dr. Franklin, Mr. Lynch, and Mr. Harrison, 


do you think of a flag with a white ground, a tree in 
the middle, the motto, * Appeal to Heaven V This 
is the flag of our floating batteries/' To which 
Colonels Glover and Moylan replied, October 21, 
1775 : " That as Broughton and Selman, who sailed 
that morning, had none but their old colors, they 
had appointed the signal by which they could be 
known by their friends to be ' the ensign up to the 
maintopping lift. ' ' * 

This ensign, which is called their " old colors," 
must have been the ensign spoken of and described 
in Queen Anne's proclamation. (See Fig» 7, Plate 
I.) Since we have seen one ensign prescribed 1707, 
for the merchant ships and vessels of Great Britain, 
and the dominions thereunto belonging, and that no 
change was made until 1801. This being the case, 
the ensign of the colonial cruisers, inasmuch as they 
were armed merchant vessels, must have been the 
British ensign displayed at the maintopping lift. 
There were several reasons for this ; the most forci- 
ble of which were, that it being usual to have no special 
place for the display of the national ensign at sea, but 

had the subject of the flag under consideration, and that jbhe flag 
prepared under their supervision was the one displayed as the flag 
of the United Colonies, on the day the army organized by them, 
General Washington, &€., went into being. 
* Siege of Boston, p. 261. 



the custom being to exhibit it in such part of the ves* 
sel from i^hich it could be most convenientlj observed 
by the strange sail (on which occasion only it was worn 
at sea), to adopt a particular place for its display would 
be to give it a new character ; one peculiarly happy 
for the then state of affairs, as it would betray the 
English transports to the colonial cruisers, and would 
not betray the Colonial cruisers to the British ships 
of war, as 'Hhe maintopping lift" mudt have been 
such a position as would not attract the attention of 
those not in the secret. This reply of the gentlemen 
charged with the continental or colonial cruisers, 
would readily have suggested a modification of the 
British ensign for the ensign of the United Colonies 
of North America ; for the transition, in the adoption 
of a flag, from a particular place for the display of a 
particular flag, to some modification of the same flag, 
was both natural and easy ; especially, as a slight 
modification of this flag would enable them to indi- 
cate the number of colonies, while the emblem of 
union would happily indicate the union of those colo- 
nies, < and at the same time would have justified them 
in saying, in their address of December 6, 1775, 
*' Allegiance to our king. Our words have ever 
avowed it, our conduct has ever been in keeping with 
it," as having acknowledged their dependence on the 



mother country, even in the flag mth which they 
were to struggle against her. 

Before we proceed to consider the origin of the 
stripes, we shall give an account of the same flag 
as displayed on the fleet fitted out at Philadelphia 
about this time, so as to fix, beyond a doubt, this 
emblem of union. As a preliminary, we will give a 
short extract of the sailing orders given to Benedict 


Arnold's fleet, "*" when he set out on his expedition to 
Canada. They may be found at length in Major 
Meigs's journal of that expedition. 

"1st Signal." "For speaking with the whole 
fleet, ensiffn at maintopmast head." 

" 2d Signal.'* "For chasing a sail, ensign at fore- 
topmast head." 

" 6th Signal." " For boarding any vessel. Jack at 
maintopmast head, and the whole fleet to draw up in 
a line as near as possible." 

The Jack, or Union, or Union Jack, as it was and 
is called, was and is, to this day, in the navy of 
Great Britain, the flag of the admiral of the fleet; 
and was probably, as such, worn by the vessel of the 
commander-in-chief of this expedition, and its use 
probably suggested the adoption of a standard tot 
the commander-in-chief of the first American fleet. 
Flag No. 7, in our table. The date of sailing of the 

* Mass. Historical Collections, 2d series, vol. ii. p. 228. 


above fleet was Sept. 19, 1775, before the letter of 
Colonels Glover and Moylan, speaking of the " old 
colors," was written (the date of the latter was Oct. 
21, 1775), and the use of the terms jack and ensign 
strengthens the conclusion that the term "old colors" 
meant British colors, for we shall find, in the orders 
of the first American fleet, that the ensign and jack 
are called the striped ensign and Jack. 

In this connection, we give a few extracts from the 
sailing orders of the first American fleet, " given the 
several captains in the fleet, at sailing from the Capes 
of Delaware, Feb. 17, 1776."* 

" Sir : You are hereby ordered to keep company 
with me, if possible, and truly observe the signals 
given by the ship I am in." 

" In case you are in any very great danger of 
being taken, you are to destroy these orders and 
your signals." 


" For chasing : For the whole fleet to chase, a red 
pennant at the foretopmast head." We have already 
said that, since the time of the Romans, a red flag 
has been the signal to prepare for battle. 

" For seeing a strange vessel : Hoist the ensign, 
and lower and hoist it as many times as you see ves- 
sels, allowing two minutes between each time." 

* American Archives, 4th series, vol. iv. p. 1179. 


Supposing tliis ensign to be a Union flag, observe 
the similarity between this signal and that for the 
lighthouse and castle in Boston Harbor in 1720 ; ^< the 
lighthouse," as we have already stated, "in time of 
war makes a signal to the castle, and the castle to 
the town, by hoisting and lowering the Union flag so 
many times as there are ships approaching." 

"For the Providence to chase: A St. George's 
ensign with stripes at the mizzen peak." 

" For a general attack, or the whole fleet to en- 
gage, the standard at the maintopmast head, with 
the striped Jack and ensign at their proper places." 

Now let us look at some of the descriptions of the 
colors of this fleet, both by American and British 


" Newbern, Nobth Cabolika, February 9, 1776. 

" By a gentleman from Philadelphia, we have re- 
ceived the pleasing account of the actual sailing from 
that place of the first American fleet that ever swelled 
their sails on the Western Ocean, &c. 

" This fleet consists of five sail, fitted out from 
Philadelphia, which are to be joined at the capes of 
Virginia by two more ships from Maryland, and is 
commanded by Admiral Hopkins, a most experienced 
and venerable sea captain.*' 



^^ They sailed from Philadelphia amidst the accla- 
mations of thousands assembled on the joyful occa- 
sion, under the display of a Union flag, with thirteen 
stripes in the field, emblematical of the thirteen 
United Colonies."* 

And the following extract from a letter, dated 
New Providence, West Indies, of which Island Ad- 
miral Hopkins took prisoner the governor, fccf 

This letter was kindly furnished by Colonel Peter 
Force, editor of the American Archives^ and may be 
found in the London Ladies' Magazincy vol. vii. 
July 1776, p. 390. 

" Nbw Peovidbncb, May 13, 1776. 

" The colors of the American fleet were striped 
under the JJnionj with thirteen strokes, called the 
United Colonies, and their standard, a rattlesnake ; 
motto — ' Don't tread on me.' '* 

The following extract was furnished by the same 
gentleman, to whom I cannot too warmly return my 
thanks for the facilities and assistance he has afi'ord- 
ed me. 

" WiLLiAMSBUBG, Va., April 10, 1776. 

" The Roebuck [a British cruiser] has taken two 
prizes in Delaware Bay, which she decoyed within 

* American Archives, 4th series, vol. iv. p. 965. 
t Ibid. vol. V. p. 823. 


her reach, by hoisting a Continental Union Flag,'' 
Reference to this letter not obtained, but in support 
of its correctness, see affidavit of Mr. Barry, master's 
mate, ship Grace, captured by the Boebuck, to be 
found in the Pennsylvania Evening Post, June 20, 
1776, vol. ii. No. 221. 

It is unnecessary to multiply proof on this subject. 
The term union, in these accounts, both by American 
and British writers, at sea and land, by the interpre- 
tation we give it, explains and harmonizes all of 
them. We therefore proceed to consider the other 
and what may be called the distinctive devices — we 
mean the stripes on this Continental Union Flag. 

Under the head of Ensign [Brande's Dictionary), 
we are told: "Men of war carry a red, white, or blue 
ensign, according to the color of the flag of the ad- 
miral." By the Ist Article of the union between 
England and Scotland, we have seen that the ensigns, 
both " at sea and land,'' were to embody the union of 
the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew conjoined; 
hence the colors, red, white, &c., only apply to the 
field of the ensign. 

In the extract from the King's Regulations for the 
British Army, we have shown that the ensign of the 
different regiments differed in color according as the 
facings of the uniforms of the particular regiments 
to which they belonged differed. We have seen, in 


the Crusades, the different nations were distinguished 
by different colored crosses on their surcoats, from 
which the particular colored cross was transferred to 
the national banners of at least Scotland and Eng- 
land. Here the striking distinction was color. The 
same practice prevailed at the time of the Bevolution 
in the colonies. — See the Proceedings of the Provin- 
cial Congress of Connecticut, ** July 1, 1775. One 
standard for each regiment, distinguished by their 
color, as follows, viz.: For the seventh, blue ; for 
the eighth, orange."* 

With this practice of nations, then, before them, 
and evidently applied by them, viz. : that of apply-* 
ing some badge of distinction in use in their armies 
to their national banner, combined with that of indi-^ 
eating different portions of their armies by different 
colors for their flags ; and of two nations, wh^n unit- 
ing, adopting as a common ensign something to in- 
dicate their union, and still preserve the original 
banners (both as to devices and color), under which 
they had respectively achieved signal triumphs, espe- 
cially as this last example was that of the mother 
country, we may expect to see the colonies carrying 
out this practice in their Union flag. 

They were British colonies : and, as we have 

* American Archives, 4th series, vol. ii. p. 1582. 


shown, they used the British Union, but now, they 
were to distinguish their flag by its color from other 
British ensigns, preserve a trace of the colors under 
which they had previously fought with success, and, 
at the same time, represent this combination in some 
form peculiar to themselves. 

The mode of distinction by color could not well 
be applied by the United Colonies in a single color, 
as the simpler and most striking were exhausted in 
application to British ensigns ; but, if applied, must 
have been used in a complex form or combination of 
colors. This being the case, stripes of color would 
naturally be suggested as being striking, as enabling 
them to show the number and union of the colonies,. 
as preserving the colors of the flags previously used 
by them; and also the badge of distinction, which, 
at the time of the adoption of this flag, marked the 
different grades in the ununiformed army before 
Boston. Hence, probably, the name. The Great 
Union Flag^ given to it by the writer in the Phila- 
delphia Grazettey before quoted, doubtless Colonel 
Joseph Beed, inasmuch as this flag indicated, as re- 
pected the Colonies, precisely what the Great Union 
Flag of Great Britain indicated respecting the mother 

The only point that now remains for us to esta- 
blish is, that a stripe or ribbon was the badge in 


common use in the army of tlie colonists before 
Boston. In proof of this, we quote the following 
extracts from the orders of General Washington. 

<'Head-Qua&tebs, Cambkidge, July 14, 1775. 

(" Countersign, Inverness. Parole, Halifax.) 
" There being something awkward as well as im- 
proper in the general officers being stopped at the 
outposts, asked for passes by the sentries, and 
obliged, often, to send for the officer of the guard 
(who, it frequently happens, is as much unacquainted 
with the persons of the generals as the private men), 
before they can pass in or out, it is recommended to 
both officers and men, to make themselves acquainted 
with the persons of all officers in general command, 
and, in the mean time, to prevent mistakes, the gene- 
ral officers and their aides-de-camp will be distin- 
guished in the following manner : The commander- 
in-chief, by a light blue ribbon worn across his 
breast, between his coat and waistcoat; the majors 
and brigadiers general by a pink ribbon worn in 
like manner; the aides-de-camp, by a green ribbon."* 

<<Head-Quabtebs, Cambbidge, July 23, 1775. 

("Parole, Brunswick. Countersign, Princeton.) 
"As the continental army have unfortunately no 
uniforms, and consequently many inconveniences 

* American ArcMyes, 4th series, yol. ii. p. 1662. 


mast arise from not being able always to distinguish 
the commissioned officers from the non-commissioned, 
and the non-commissioned from the privates, it is 
desired that some badges of distinction may be im- 
mediately provided ; for instance, the field officers 
may have red or pink colored cockades in their hats, 
the captains yellow or buff, and the subalterns green. 
They are to furnish themselves accordingly. The ser- 
geants may be distinguished by an epaulette or stripe 
of red cloth sewed upon the right shoulder, the cor- 
porals by one of green."* 

'' Head-Quabtbbs, Cambbidos, July 24, 1775. 

("Parole, Salisbury. Countersign, Cumberland.) 
"It being thought proper to distinguish the majors 
from brigadiers general, by some particular mark for 
the future, the majors general will wear a broad 
purple ribbon." 

Having thus established the use of the stripe as a 
badge of distinction, we have completed our proofs 
in reference to the Union flag displayed by General 
Washington before Boston, January 2, 1776. And 
to perceive how simple and natural is the deduction 
of the ensign of the army and fleet of the United 
English Colonies of North America, from the national 

* American Axchiyes, 4th series, toI. ii. p. 1738. 


ensign of Great Britain, it is only necessary to com- 
pare Fig. 7, Plate I. and Fig. 2, Plate II. 

Having made some observations in reference to 
the mottoes on several of the flags given in our 
table, we would now invite attention to the religious 
character of those on the colonial flags, viz. : Qui 
transtulit svstinetj and an " Appeal to Heaven.'' In 
the famous effort of colonial vigor, which, result- 
ing in the capture of Louisburg, surprised the world 
in 1745, we learn, from Belknap's History of New 
Hampshire, vol ii. p. 157, that the flag used bore 
the motto. Nil desperandum Christo Dvx:e. A motto 
furnished by the celebrated George Whitfield. This 
last flag, under the treaty of union, must have been 
an Union flag, probably, similar to the British ensign 
above given, or perhaps with a white field, to which 
color the New England people were partial (see the 
colors of the Massachusetts cruisers. Flag No. 8, in our 
table), with the motto above given inscribed on the field. 

May we not conclude that, when the flags em- 
bodying such mottoes were dispensed with, some re- 
ference to them would still be preserved, as would 
be the case by preserving in the flag which replaced 
them the colors of the flags laid aside ? 


The letter previously quoted, dated New Provi- 


dence, May 13, 1776, says: "And their standard, a 
rattlesnake ;" motto — "Don't tread on me/' This 
standard is thus described, viz. :-:r- 

" In Congress, February 9, 1776. 

"Colonel Gadsden presented to the Congress an 
elegant standard, such as is to be used by the Com- 
mander-in-chief of the American Navy, being a 
yellow field, with a lively representation of a rattle- 
snake in the middle, in the attitude of going to strike, 
and the words underneath, * Don't tread on me.'* 

" Orderedj That the said standard be carefully 
preserved and suspended in the Congress room." 

Before I proceed, I shall offer one or two remarks 
on this device of the rattlesnake, to show that it 
also, as well as the British crosses, was an emblem 
of union, and that it was seized upon as one then 
(December, 1775) in use, and familiar. 

In 1754, in the Philadelphia Q-azettey when Ben- 
jamin Franklin was editor of that paper, an article 
appeared, urging union among the colonies as a 
means of insuring safety from attacks of the French. 
This article closed with a wood-cut of a snake di- 
vided into parts, with the initials of one colony on 

^ American Archives, 4th series, vol. v. p. 668. South Carolina 
Provincial Congress. 



each division, and the motto, "Join, or die,'* under- 
neath, in capital letters.* (See Fig. 3, Plate TL) 

When union among the colonies was urged, in 
1774-6, as a mode of securing their liberties, this 
device, a disjointed snake, divided into thirteen parts, 
with the initials of a colony on each division, and the 
motto, " Join, or die," was adopted as the head-piece 
of many of the newspapers. When the union of 
the colonies took place, this was changed, for the 
head-pieces of the newspapers, into the device 
adopted on the standard, viz. : a rattlesnake in the 
attitude of going to strike, and into an united snake. 
(Under both forms of this device, was the motto, 
"Don't tread on me.") 

The seal of the War Department is the only public 
instrument in use, exhibiting evidence of the rattle- 
snake's having played an important part as a device 
in the American Revolution. The old seal of 1778, 
and the more modern seal now in use, both bear the 
rattlesnake (with its rattles as the emblem of union), 
and a liberty cap in contiguity with it ; the liberty 
cap enveloped by the body, so that the opened mouth 
may defend the rattleSy and liberty cap, or union 
and liberty, with the motto, "This we'll defend." 
(See Fig. 4, Plate II.) 

* Franklin's Works, vol. iii. p. 25. 


The following account of this device, supposed to 
be from the pen of Benjamin Franklin, indicates 
fully why it was adopted, and will be found in the 
American ArchiveSy vol. iv. p. 468. 

** Philadelphia, December 27, 1775. 

" I observe on one of the drums belonging to the 
marines now raising, there was painted a rattlesnake, 
with this motto under it, * Don't tread on me.' As I 
know it is the custom to have some device on the 
arms of every country, I suppose this may have 
been intended for the arms of America; and, as I 
have nothing to do with public affairs, and as my 
time is perfectly my own, in order to divert an idle 
hour, I sat down to guess what could have been in- 
tended by this uncommon device. I took care, 
however, to consult, on this occasion, a person who is 
acquainted with heraldry, from whom I learned that 
it is a rule, among the learned in that science, Uhat 
the worthy properties of the animal, in the crest- 
born, shall be considered;' he likewise informed me 
that the ancients considered the serpent as an emblem 
of wisdom ; and, in a certain attitude, of endless dura- 
tion — both which circumstances, I suppose, may have 
been had in view. Having gained this intelligence, 
and recollecting that countries ' are sometimes repre- 
sented by animals peculiar to them,' it occurred to 


me that the rattlesnake is found in no other quarter 
of the world beside America, and may, therefore, 
have been chosen on that account to represent her. 

"But then, *the worthy properties' of a snake, 
I judged, would be hard to point out. This rather 
raised than suppressed my curiosity, and having 
frequently seen the rattlesnake, I ran over in my 
mind every property by which she was distinguished, 
not only from other animals, but from those of the 
same genus or class of animals, endeavoring to fix 
some meaning to each, not wholly inconsistent with 
common sense. 

" I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness 
that of any other animal, and that she has no eye- 
lids. She may, therefore, be esteemed an emblem 
of vigilance. She never begins an attack, nor, when 
once engaged, ever surrenders. She is, therefore, 
an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. As 
if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarrelling 
with her, the weapons with which nature has fur- 
nished her she conceals in the roof of her mouth ; so 
that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she 
appears to be a defenceless animal; and even when 
those weapons are shown and extended for defence, 
they appear weak and contemptible ; but their 
wounds, however small, are decisive and fatal. 
Conscious of thisj she never wounds till she has 


generously given notice, even to her enemy, and 
cautioned him against the danger of treading on her. 
Was I wrong sir, in thinking this a strong picture of 
the temper and conduct of America? 

" The poison of her teeth is the necessary means 
of digesting her food, and at the same time is cer- 
tain destruction to her enemies. This may be under- 
stood to intimate that those things which are destruc- 
tive to our enemies, may be to us not only harmless, 
but absolutely necessary to our existence. I confess 
I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, 
till I went back and counted them ; and found them 
just thirteen, exactly the number of the colonies 
united in America ; and I recollected, too, that this 
was the only part of the snake which increased in 

" Perhaps it might be only fancy, but I conceited 
the painter had shown a half-formed additional 
rattle ; which, I suppose, may have been intended to 
represent the province of Canada. 'Tis curious and 
amazing to observe how distinct and independent of 
each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet 
how firmly they are united together, so as never to 
be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One 
of these rattles singly is incapable of producing 
sound ; but the ringing of thirteen together is suffi- 
cient to alarm the boldest man living. The rattle- 



snake is solitary, and associates with her kind only^ 
when it is necessary for their preservation. In 
winter, the warmth of a number together wiU pre- 
serve their lives : while, singly, they would probably 
perish. The power of fascination attributed to her, 
by a generous construction, may be understood to 
mean, that those who consider the liberty and bless- 
ings which America affords, and once come over to 
her, never afterwards leave her, but spend their lives 
with her. She strongly resembles America in this^ 
that she is beautiful in her youth^ and her beauty 
increaseth with her age, ^her tongue also is blue, and 
forked ad the lightning, and her abode is among 
impenetrable rocks.' 

"Having pleased myself with reflections of this 
kind, I communicated my sentiments to a neighbor 
of mine, who has a surprising readiness at guessing 
at everything which relates to public affairs; and 
indeed, I should be jealous of his reputation in that 
way, was it not that the event constantly shows that 
he has guessed wrong. He instantly declared it as 
his sentiments, that the Congress meant to allude to 
Lord North's declaration in the House of Commons, 
that he never would relax his measures until he had 
brought America to his feet ; and to intimate to his 
lordship, that if she was brought to his feet, it 
would be dangerous treading on her. But, I am 


positive he has guessed wrong, for I am sure that 
Congress would not condescend, at this time of day, 
to take the least notice of his lordship, in that or 
any other way. In which opinion, I am determined 
to remain, your humble servant." 

The yellow flag, with the rattlesnake in the middle, 
and the words underneath, "Don't tread on me,'* 
(see Fig. 5, Plate II.,) the standard for the Oom- 
mander-in-chief of the American Navy, was probably 
the flag referred to by Paul Jones, in his journal. 

Paul Jones was commissioned first of the first 
lieutenants in the continental navy. " This commis- 
sion, under the United Colonies, is dated the 7th of 
December, 1775, as first lieutenant of the Alfred. 
On board that ship, before Philadelphia, Mr. Jones 
hoisted the flag of America, with his own hands, the 
first time it was ever displayed, as the commander- 
in-chief embarked on board the Alfred." (Page 84, 
Life and Correspandenee of Paul Jones,) 

From the foregoing account, it will be perceived 
that the first flag adopted by the army of the colo- 
nists before Boston, was a red flag, with the mot- 
toes, Qui transtulit sustinetj and "An Appeal to 
Heaven." By the combination of these mottoes, the 
union of Massachusetts and Connecticut, in defence 
of their outraged liberties, was doubtless intimated ; 


and, taken in connection with those mottoes, the color 
of the flag indicated that, trusting in the God of 
battles, they defied the power of the mother country. 
About this time, too, the floating batteries, the germ 
of the navy subsequently organized, bore a white 
flag, with a green pine-tree, and the motto, ^'Appeal 
to Heaven." These flags were adopted before the 
union of the thirteen colonies was effected. 

After that union, and upon the organization of the 
army and fleet, these flags were supplanted by one 
calculated to show to the world the union of the 
North American colonies among themselves, and as 
an integral part of the British Empire, and as such 
demanding the rights and liberties of British sub- 
jects. And a flag combining the crosses of St. 
George and St. Andrew united (the distinctive 
emblem of the United Kingdom of Great Britain), 
with a field composed of thirteen stripes, alternate 
red and white, the combination of the flags pre- 
viously used in the camp, on the cruisers, and the 
floating batteries of the colonies, was adopted for this 
purpose, and called The Great Union Flag. 

The union implied both the union of the colonies 
represented in the striped field, which was dependent 
upon it, and the nationality of those colonies. The 
thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, constituting 
the field of the flag, represented the body of that 


union, the number of the members which composed 
it, as well as the union of the flags, which had pre- 
ceded this Great Union Flag. 

We assume that the colors of those stripes were 
alternate red and white, inasmuch as those were the 
colors in the first flag of the United States, and we 
presume no change, not absolutely necessary, was 
made, in altering the flag of the United Colonies to 
that of the United States. There is no evidence of 
their being of that color, except the universally re- 
ceived tradition that such was the case. 

The colors of those striped, alternd.te red and 
white, indicated on the part of the colonies, thus re- 
presented as united, the defiance to oppression, sym- 
boliiied by the red color of the flag of the army, and 
red field of the flag of thei Continental cruisers 
together, with the purity implied by the white flag of 
the floating batteries^ of which the motto was, ^^ Ap- 
peal to Heaven." 

Lest these conclusions should seem far fetched, we 
would again advert to the fact, that in the present 
Union, or national flag of the United Kingdom of 
Great Britain and Ireland, not only are the crosses 
of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick united, 
but the colors of the fields of the banners of St. 
George, of England, St. Andrew, of Scotland, and 
St. Patrick, of Ireland, are preserved. 


In the case of the colonies, everything that tended 
to call to mind previous triumphs would have been 
studiously preserved, and the red and white flags 
were identified with the successes of Bunker Hill, 
(for tradition says the flag on that occasion was red, 
and that a Whig told General Gage that the motto 
was, " Come, if you dare,'*)* and the various successes 
of the siege of Boston, prior to Jan. 2, 1776. 

The use of the stripes, l}esides indicating the 
union of the above flags, for the purpose before in- 
dicated, would, as a badge of distinction for the 
Great Union Flag of the colonies, have carried 
the minds of those who were marshalled under it 
back to the moment when the tocsin of war sounded 
at Lexington — called them, "generals" as well as 
"private men," — in the garbs in which they were 
pursuing their peaceful avocations, to arms in defence 
of liberty. And we of the present day should regard 
them as hallowed, by having been employed by 
General Washington as the first step towards intro- 
ducing subordination into the army, which achieved 
our independence. In those stripes we may per- 
ceive the necessity indicated of the subordination of 
each State to the Union, while their equality under 
the Union is also intimated, by there being nothing 

* Frothingham's Siege of Boston. 


to indicate that any particular State was represented 
by any particular stripe. There being seven red 
stripes, doubtless arose from that being the color of 
the principal flags represented in the combination of 
colors, for certainly the flags of the army and crui- 
sers must have had pre-eminence over that of the 
floating batteries. 

The striped Union flag was the colonial colors, 
both at sea and land, but there was also, as we have 
seen, a standard such as was used by the commander- 
in-chief of the American navy, being a yellow field, 
with a lively representation of a rattlesnake in the 
middle, in the attitude of going to strike, and the 
words underneath, " Don't tread on me." The color 
of the snake, as represented, was dark. This cir- 
cumstance goes strongly to prove the correctness of 
our conclusion, that the example of the mother 
country was followed in the preparation of the flags 
of this period — ^for the quarantine flag of the mother 
country was a yellow flag with a dark spot, a repre- 
sentation of the plague-spot in the middle — those 
colors were, doubtless, chosen for the rattlesnake 
flag, to indicate the deadly character of the venom 
of the rattlesnake, and the danger of treading 
on it. 

But we have before stated that the rattlesnake 
first appeared as a snake divided into thirteen parts, 


each part marked with the initials of the colony to 
which it corresponded, and beneath them the motto, 
^^ Join, or die," indicating the necessitj of union* 
And that^ the iinion being effected, the initials on 
the parts were dropped (thus indicating the equality 
of the colonies under the Union), and the parts were 
united in the form indicated in this standard, and 
beneath it the words, " Don't tread on me," imply- 
ing the consciousness of strength derived from that 
union, of which, we have seen, the rattlesnake was 
an emblem indigenous to America, while at the 
same time the serpent implies eternal duration. 
This, then, may properly be called the Rattlesnake 
Union Standard, and the other, the Great Union, or 
Striped Union Flag; and together they indicated 
that existence as a people was inseparable from 
union — the strength resulting from that union — the 
necessary subordination of each colony to the whole 
Union, the intimate connection of the colonies com- 
posing the Union, their equality and perpetuity under 
it, and the power of fascination in the Union and har- 
mony in the colonies, which would draw everybody 
to America, and cause those who had once tasted 
the liberty and blessings she enjoys, never to leave 
her, but to " spend their lives with her." 

Having thus described the flags of the United 
Colonies, and shown that they were emblematic of 


union, and hence called Union flags, in imitation of 
the prevailing custom of the mother country, we now 
proceed to consider the Flag of the United States, 
described in the following Resolution of Congress, 
passed June 14, 1777 : — 

''Besolved, That the Flag of the Thirteen United 
States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white : 
That the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue 
field, representing a new constellation." 

This resolution was made public September 8, 
1777 ; and Colonel Trumbull represents the flag 
made in pursuance of it as used at Burgoyne's sur- 
render, October 17, 1777. 

From the above resolution and what has preceded, 
it is apparent that the object of that resolution was 
simplj to give the authorization of Congress to a 
color existing, so far as the stripes and part of the 
flag called the union were concerned; but it is worthy 
of remark that the character of the new emblem for 
that union is specially described as representing '' a 
new constellation." 

The use of some emblem of union different from 
the British crosses, the United States having declared 
themselves free and independent States, was emi- 
nently natural, but the description of the emblem 
substituted for them as ^^representing a new con- 
stellation^" involves the idea that some constellation, 


in some way emblematic of union, had been presented 
to the minds of those adopting this resolution. It 
may be said that the adoption of a star, as the repre- 
sentative of a State, would naturally lead to the idea 
of a constellation ; but, as the emblem to be altered 
was one of union, we are inclined to think that the 
first idea suggested was that of some constellation, 
which of itself implied union, and that the represent- 
ation of a State by a star was involved in it. 

The question that now arises is, was there any 
constellation which implied union ? The answer is, 
there was the constellation Lyra. The next point is, 
to ascertain if the first flag displayed under this 
resolution bore that constellation. If not, in what 
form the stars were presented on that flag, and 
whether any connection can be traced between it 
and the constellation Lyra. 

Let us first consider the fitness of the constellation 
Lyra to indicate union. In Charles Anthon's Dic- 
tionary of Greek and Roman AntiquvtieSy we find 
the following account of the Lyra. He says : — 

'^ Lyra. The Latin name fideSy which was used for 
a lyre as well as a cithara, is probably the same as 
the Greek aplBiSy which, according to Hesychius, signi- 
fies gut-strings ; but Festus takes it to be the same as 
fides (faith), because the It/re was the symbol of har- 
mony and unity among men.'* The quotation from 


the Astronomicon of Manilius, presented in the fol- 
lowing letter from Mr. Charles Francis Adams, 
grandson of Mr. John Adams, confirms the attri- 
butes above ascribed to the lyre, and its correspond- 
ing constellation "Lyra." 

Qtjinct, May 18, 1852. 

Dear Sir : Your letter of the fourth came upon 
me unprepared to answer it without investigations, 
which I have ever since been hoping to pursue, but 
thus far in vain. Not a moment has been at my com- 
mand since I received it, and as I am now expecting 
every moment to depart for Washington, I fear that 
I must give up all idea of doing more hereafter, at 
least in season for any object of yours. 

With the exception of a few letters to and from 
Generals Green, Sullivan, Parsons, and Ward, there 
are no memorials remaining in my hands of my grand- 
father's services while chairman of the Board of War. 
He had no time to copy or record papers, so that 
very few are left. I am not aware of the existence 
of any journal or other record of the action of the 
body, nor of any further history of it than is given 
in his lately published diary. I am, therefore, wholly 
unable to give you any light upon the question of the 
origin of the American colors. 

With regard to the other design, of the eagle, with 
the lyre on its breast, and the stars of the constella- 


tion Lyraj I can only say that I possess the seal 
which was the original form in which the device was 
presented. There it has the motto, Nunc ^dera 
dtieity taken from the Astronomicon of Manilius, 
describing the effect of the Lyre of Orpheus, 

'* At Lyra didnctis per ccelum comibus inter 
Sidera conspicitur, qua quondam ceperat Orpheus 
Omne quod attigerat cantu, manesque per ipsos 
Fecit iter, domuit que infemas carmine leges. 
Hinc coelestis honos, similisque potentia causae : 
Tunc silyas et saxa trahens, nunc sidera ducit, 
Et rapit immensum mundi rcTolubilis orbem/' 

n. 331-337. 

It is my opinion that, although this last line does 
not appear, my father had it in his mind when 
applying the device to the American passport, but 
I have not had the leisure to look for any explana- 
tion he may have himself left of it. His papers are 
voluminous, and I have barely as yet glanced at any 
part of their contents. This must be my apology 
for sending you so unsatisfactory a reply. 

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

The following is a translation of the above quota- 
tion : — 

Conspicuous among the stars, its horns wide spread 
over the heavens, is the Lyre, with which Orpheus 


was wont to captivate everything to which he ad- 
dressed his song, and even made a journey through 
Hades itself, and put to sleep the infernal laws. 
Hence, its celestial honor ; and, by the same power 
with which it then drew rocks and trees along, it now 
leads the stars, and whirh along the immense orb of 
the revolving world. 

This last line shows that the constellation Lyra, 
as an emblem of union for the United States, would 
have been an amplification of the attribute of ^' fasci- 
nation" ascribed to the Rattlesnake, as an emblem of 
union for the United States, in the account we have 
already given of the Rattlesnake as such, in describ- 
ing the standard of the commander-in-chief of the 
American navy ; for the constellation Lyra would not 
only imply " that those who consider the liberty and 
blessings which America affords, and once come over 
to her, never afterwards leave her, but spend their 
lives with her," but that by their union and harmony 
the United States would ^' whirl along the immense 
orb of the revolving world," to follow their example 
in their forms of government. 

Having thus shown how appropriate the constella- 
tion Lyra would have been as an emblem of the 
union of the United States, we proceed to ascertain 
if the first flag displayed under the resolution of 



June 14, 1777, bore tlist constellation. In Tram- 
ball's picture of the surrender of Bnrgoyne, and 
Peale's picture of Washington, the thirteen stars are 
represented as arranged in a circle ; it now remains 
to show the existence of some record exhibiting a 
connection between the constellation Lyra and the 
circle of thirteen stars. 

We find this record on a form for a passport of 
the United States, prepared under Mr. John Quincy 
Adams, when Secretary of State, in 1820, which 
form is now in use. In adopting the form in ques* 
tion, the arms of the United States, previously used 
on U. S. passports, were replaced by a .circle of thir- 
teen stars surrounding an eagle, holding in his beak 
the constellation Lyra, and the motto. Nunc sidera 

Mr. J. W. Stone, of Washington City, gives the 
following account of the preparation of the device 
above described, and presented in the vignette to the 
title-page. In it, the constellation Lyra is repre* 
sented as radiating into a circle of thirteen stars. 

Mount Pleasant, Washinoton City, May 3, 186?. 

Mt Dear Sir : I find, on eicamination, that ou 
the 25th of August, 1820, I engraved for the De^ 
partment of State, by order of J. Q. Adams, Secre- 
tary of State, a plate for a passport, at the head of 


"which was a spread eagle, drawn to encompass the 
constellation Lyra. 

The drayring was made by me, according to particu- 
lar verbal directions given by Mr. Adams. I have a 
distinct recollection of having submitted the drawing 
to Mr. Adams, for approval, previous to engraving. 

Very respectfully, your obedt. Ejervt. 
(Signed,) W. J. STONE. 

Had not this device been substituted, on the form 
for a United States passport, for the arms of the 
United States, by Mr. John Quincy Adams, we should 
not consider the constellation Lyra, radiating into a 
circle of thirteen stars, as having any special meaning ; 
but as, at the time the circle of thirteen stars was 
introduced into the flag of the United States as an 
emblem of union, his father, Mr. John Adams, was 
chairman of the Board of War, we think it has. 

On page 6, vol. iii. of the lAfe and Writings of 
John Adams, we find the following entry in his 
journal :— 

^' The duties of this Board kept me in continual 
employment, not to say drudgery, from the 12th of 
June 1776, till the 11th of November 1777." Again : 
^' Other gentlemen attended as they pleased, but, as 
I was chairman, or as they were pleased to call it, 
president, I must never be absent." 


A change being .contemplated in the emblem of 
union in the flag, the Board of War would, doubtless, 
have had charge of the preparation of the substitute ; 
and from the above, we perceive the chairman must 
have been particularly connected with its preparation. 

We have thus presented the data upon which is 
based the conclusion that the constellation Lyra was 
originally proposed for the union of our Flag, in 
1777, at the time the circle of thirteen stars was 
adopted. The reasons for that conclusion are the 
following : — 

It was a Union flag that was to be altered. The 
United States having become independent of Great 
Britain, the British emblem of union was no longer 
appropriate; some other emblem of union was to be 

The constellation Lyra was a time-honored emblem 
of union. The language of the resolution of June 
14, 1777, evidently has reference to such an emblem, 
representing a constellation. The Lyra was not 
adopted. A circle of thirteen stars was. At this 
time, Mr. John Adams was chairman of the Board of 

Mr. John Adams's son became Secretary of State 
in 1820. Striking out the arms of the United States, 
he presented on the passport a device, representing 
the constellation Lyra radiating into a circle of stars 


— the stars thirteen in number. At this time there 
were twenty-one States in the Union — hence this 
circle of thirteen stars referred to an earlier day. 
The first instance of a circle of thirteen stars being 
used as a national device, was in the U. S. Flag, and 
its being presented on the passport must have refer- 
red to that use of it, as constituting it a well-known 
emblem of the United States, indicative of their 
union, while the constellation Lyra, occupying the 
centre of this circle, indicates the origin of the circle 
of stars, as an emblem of union " representing a new 
constellation," in that time-honored emblem of union. 
The other circumstances we have adduced point to 
Mr. John Adams as the source from which his son 
derived his information. We suppose the circle of 
stars was preferred to the Lyra because it indicated 
the perpetuity of the Union, which was distinctly in- 
timated by the Rattlesnake Standard, laid aside when 
the flag of the United States, commonly called the 
Stars and Stripes, was adopted. It may not be im- 
proper to observe that these deductions are in keep- 
ing with the general rules, presented in our Introduc- 
tion, as deduced from the practices of nations relative 
to national emblems. 

Compare Fig. 6, Plate IL, the Flag of the United 
States, as first presented under the resolution of 
June 14, 1777, with Fig. 1, Plate III., the flag as 


we suppose it to lisve been proposed when Mr. John 
Adams was chairman of the Board of War, and both 
of the above with the vignette to the title-page, the 
device introduced into the passport in lieu of the 
arms of the United States, by Mr. John Q. Adams, 
when Secretary of State. 

In making these comparisons, the eagle, only 
adopted for the arms of the United States in 1782, 
must be kept out of view, or rather considered as 
having no part in the question about the stars. 

In the preceding pages, we have established the 
origin of the part of the flag called 'Hhe union," 
also that of the circle of stars as an emblem for that 
union, together with that of the stripes, as clearly as 
analogy will enable us so to do. As corroborating 
the views we have advanced, we now present to the 
reader the reports on the adoption of the arms of the 
United States, copied by permission from unpublished 
records of the State Department, from which it ap- 
pears that certain of those who prepared the devices 
for the Flag of the United States, were also engaged 
in the preparation of the device for a Great Seal. 


u me— page 248. 

" July 4. Dr. Franklin, Mr. J. Adams, and Mr. 
Jefferson, be a committee to prepare a device for a 
Great Seal for the United States of America. 


« 1176— page 821. 

^^Aug, 10. The C!ommittee appointed to prepare 
the Device for a Great Seal for the United States 
brought in the same, with an explanation thereof ; 
ordered to lie on the table. 

"No. 1. Copy of a Report made Aug. 10, 1776. 

" The Great Seal should on one side have the arms 
of the United States of America, which arms should 
be as follows : — 

" The shield has six quarters, parts one, coupi two. 
The 1st or, a rose, enanjelled gules and argent for 
England ; the 2d argent, a thistle proper, for Scot- 
land ; the 8d verd, a harp or, for Ireland ; the 4th 
azure a flower-de-luce or, for France ; the 6th or, 
the imperial eagle, sable, for Germany ; and the 6th 
or, the Belgic lion, gules for Holland, pointing out 
the countries from which the States hare been peo- 
pled. The shield within a border gules entwined 
of thirteen scutcheons argent, linked together by a 
chain or, each charged with initial letters sable as 
follows : 1st, N. H. ; 2d, M. B. ; 3d, R. I. ; 4th, C. ; 
6th, N. Y. ; 6th, N. J. ; 7th, P. ; 8th, D. B. ; 9th, 
M.; 10th, V. ; 11th, N. C. ; 12th, S. C. ; 13th, G., 
for each of the thirteen independent States of 

"Supporters dexter the Goddess Liberty, in a corse- 
let of armor, alluding to the present times ; holding 


in her right hand the Bpear and cap, and with her 
left supporting the shield of the States, sinister, the 
Goddess Justice, bearing a sword in her right hand, 
and in her left a balance. 

" Crest. The eye of Providence in a radiant tri- 
angle, whose glory extends over the shield and be- 
yond the figures. Motto : E. Pluribus Unum, 

" Legend round the whole achievement. Seal of 
the United States of America, MDCCLXXVI. 

^^ On the other side of the said Great Seal should 
be the following device : — ^ 

^' Pharaoh sitting in an open chariot, a crown on 
his head and a sword in his hand, passing through 
the divided waters of the Bed Sea in pursuit of the 
Israelites. Rays, from a pillar of fire in the cloud, 
expressive of the Divine presence and command, 
beaming on Moses, who stands on the shore, and, 
extending his hand over the sea, causes it to over- 
throw Pharaoh. Motto : Rebellion to tyrants i% obe- 
dience to O^od.** 

In regard to this Report, we observe Mr. John 
Adams was one of those engaged in preparing it. 
The emblems to represent countries were the rose 
for England, the thistle for Scotland, the harp for 
Ireland, &c. May not this train of ideas have 
suggested to his mind the lyre and its corresponding 


<;onstellation to mark the Union of the United States 
of America in the flag of those States ? 

We observe the reference to the Sacred Volume in 
the device for the reverse of the proposed Seal. May 
not the idea of stars, as the representatives of de- 
pendent States, have been borrowed from the same 
source, and applied in the case of the flag as States 
dependent upon union, and thus constituting a oon- 
stellation ? 

" March 25, 1719— page 101. 

" Orderedj that the Report of the Committee on 
the Device of a Great Seal for the United States, in 
Congress assembled, be referred to a committee of 
three — ^Lovell, Scott, Houston." 

This Committee made a Report, May 10. Vide 

No. 2. 

« Original Report of May 10, 1779. No. 2." 
^' The seal to be four inches in diameter. 
"On one side, the arms of the United States, 
as follows: The shield charged on the field, with 
thirteen diagonal stripes, alternate red and white. 
Supporters dexter, a warrior holding a sword ; sinis- 
ter, a figure representing Peace, bearing an olive- 
branch. The crest, a radiant constellation of thir- 
teen stars. The motto: Bella velpace. The legend 
round the achievement. Seal of the United States. 


"On the reverse: The figure of Liberty, seated in 
a chair, holding the staff and cap. The motto : Semper. 
Underneath, MDCCLXXVL" 

''May 17, 1119— page 149. 

"The Keport of the Committee on the Device of 
a Great Seal was taken into consideration, and, after 

" Ordered that it be recommitted." 

" Report No. 2, on the Great Seal, as altered after 

" The Committee to whom was referred, on the 25th 
of March last, the report of a former committee on 
the Device of a Great Seal of the United States, in 
Congress assembled, beg leave to report the following 
description : — 

" The Seal to be three inches in diameter. 

" On one side, the arms of the United States, as 
follows : The shield charged in the field azure, with 
thirteen diagonal stripes, alternate rouge and argent, 
supporters ; dexter, a warrior holding a sword ; sinis- 
ter, a figure representing Peace, bearing the olive- 
branch. The crest, a radiant constellation of thirteen 
stars. The motto: Bello velpace. The legend round 
the achievement, 27ie Great Seal of the United States. 

" On the reverse : The figure of Liberty, seated in 
a chair, holding the staff and .cap.: The motto: Fir- 
tute perennis. Underneath, MDCCLXXVIl 


" A drawing of the Seal is annexed. No. 8, May 
10, 1780. 

"A miniature of the face of the Great Seal to be 
prepared, of half the diameter, to be affixed as the 
less Seal of the United States." 


We have not thought it worth while to present the 
drawing above referred to. 

^^ Device for an Armorial Atchievement for the United 
States of North America, blazoned a^greeably to the 
laws of Heraldry, proposed by Mr. Barton, A, M, 

" Arms. — Paleways of *thirteen pieces, argent and 
gules; a chief azure: the escutcheon placed on the 
breast of an American (the bald-headed) eagle, dis- 
played proper; holding in his beak a scroll, inscribed 
with the motto, viz. : — 

'UPluribus UnunC — 

and in his dexter talon a palm or an olive-branch ; 
in the other a bundle of thirteen arrows ; all proper. 
" For the Crest. — Over the head of the eagle, 
which appears above the escutcheon, a glory, or, 
breaking through a cloud, proper, and surrounding 

* <<As the pales or pallets consist of an uneven number, they 
ought in strictness to be blazoned — ^Argt. 6 pallets gules ; but as 
the thirteen pieces allude to the thirteen States, they are blazoned 
according to the number of pieces palewctyaj'^ 


thirteen stars forming a constellation, argent on an 
azure field. 

"In the exergue of the Great Seal — 


" In the margin of the same — 

^^SigiL Mag. Reipuh. Covfoed. Americ.'' 

^'Memarks. — The escutcheon is composed of the 
chief and pale, the two most honorable ordinaries ; the 
latter represent the several States, all joined in one 
solid compact entire, supporting a chief, which unites 
the whole and represents Congress. The motto alludes 
to the Union. The colors or tinctures of the pales are 
those used in the Flag of the United States. White, 
signifies purity, innocence ; red, hardiness and yalor. 
The chief denotes Congress. Blue is the ground of 
the American uniform, and this color signifies vigi- 
lance, perseverance, and justice. 

"The meaning of the crest is obvious, as is likewise 
that of the olive-branch and arrows. 

" The escutcheon being placed on the breast of the 
eagle is a very ancient mode of bearing, and is truly 
imperial. The eagle dhplayedy is another heraldric 
figure ; and, being borne in the manner here described, 
supplies the place of supporters and crest. The 
American States need no supporters but their own 
virtue, and the preservation of their Union through 


Congress. The pales in the arms are kept closely 
united by the chief, which last likewise depends on 
that Union, and strength resulting from it, for its 
own support — the inference is plain. 

W. B." 

" June 13, 1782." 

Mr. Barton also presented the following : — 

. " A device for an armorial atchievement for the 
Great Seal of the United States of America, in Con- 
gress assembled, agreeably to the rules of heraldry, 
proposed by William Barton, A. M. 

"Arms. — Barry of thirteen pieces, argent and 
gules, on a canton azure, and many stars disposed 
in a circle of the first ; a pale or, surmounted of 
another, of the third ; charged in chief, with an eye 
surrounded with a glory proper ; and in the fess- 
point, an eagle displayed on the summit of a Doric 
column, which rests on the base of the escutcheon, 
both as the stars. 

"Crest. — Or, an helmet of burnished gold da- 
masked, grated with six bars, and surmounted of a 
cap of dignity, gules, turned up ermine, a cock 
armed with gaffs proper. 

" Supporters. — On the dexter side ; the genius of 
America (represented by a maiden with loose auburn 
tresses, haying on her head a radiated crown of gold 



encircled with a sky-blue fillet, spangled with silver 
stars; and clothed in a long loose white garment, 
bordered with green. From her right shoulder to 
her left side a scarf, semS of stars, the tinctures' 
thereof the same as in the canton ; and round her 
waist a purple girdle, fringed or embroidered argent, 
with the word * Virtue '-^resting her interior hand 
on the escutcheon, and holding in the other the 
proper Standard of the United States^ having a dove 
argent perched on the top of it. 

^^ On the sinister side : a man in complete armor, 
his sword-belt assure, fringed with gold, his helmet 
encircled with a wreath of laurel, and crested with 
one white and two blue plumes; supporting with his 
dexter hand the escutcheon, and holding in the 
interior a lance, with the point sanguinated, and 
upon it a banner displayed, Yert., in the fess-point 
an harp stringed with silver, between a star in chief, 
two fleurs-de-lis in fess, and a pair of swords, in 
saltier, in basses, all argent. The tenants of the 
escutcheon stand on a scroll, on which is the follow- 
ing motto : — 

* Deo FaverUe,* 

which alludes to the eye in the arms, meant for the 
eye of Providence. 

"Over the <5rest^ in a scroll, this motto : — 

* Virttu -sola fnvktQj* 

which requires no comment. 


" The thirteen pieces, barways, which fill up the 
field of the arms, may represent the several States ; 
and the same number of stars, upon a blue canton, 

disposed in a circle, represent a neVr constellation, 

■ •• • . 

'Virhich alludes to the new empire formed in the world 
by the confederation of those States. Their dispo- 
sition in the form of a circle, denotes the perpetuity 
of its continuance, the ring being the symbol of 
eternity. The eagle displayed, is the symbol of 
supreme power and authority, and signifies the Con- 
gress ; the pillar upon which it rests is used as the 
hieroglyphic of fortitude and constancy, and its 
being of the Doric order (which is the best propor- 
tioned and most agreeable to nature), and composed 
of several members, or parts, all taken together, 
forming a beautiful composition of strength, con- 
g'ruity, and usefulness, it may, with great propriety, 
signify a well-planned government. The eagle being 
placed on the summit of the column is emblematical 
of the sovereignty of the government of the United 
States ; and as further expressive of that idea, those 
two charges, or five and six azure, are borne in a 
pale which extends across the thirteen pieces into 
which the escutcheon is divided. The signification 
of the eye has been already explained. The helmet 
is such as app0]*tains to sovereignty, and the cap is 
used as the token of freedom and excellency. It 


was formerly worn by dukes; says Guillien, they had 
a more worthy government than other 9ubject8. The 
cock is distinguished for two most excellent qualities,, 
viz., vigilance ^JiA fortitude. 

" The genius of the American confederated Re- 
public is denoted by the blue scarf and fillet glitter- 
ing with stars, and by the flag of Congress which she 
displays. Her dress is white edged with green,, 
colors emblematical of innocence and truth. ; Her, 
purple girdle and radiated crown indicate her sove- 
reignty; the word « Virtae," on the former, is to. 
show that that should be her principal ornament ; 
and the radiated crown, that no earthly crown shall 
rule her. The dove, on the top of the American 
standard, denotes the mildness and purity of her 

" The knight in armor, with his bloody lance, re- 
presents the military genius of the American empire, 
armed in defence of its just rights. His blue belt 
and blue feathers, indicate his country, and the white 
plume is in compliment to our gallant ally. The 
wreath of laurel round his helmet is expressive of 
his success. 

" The green field of the banner denotes youth and 
vigor; the harp* [with thirteen strings], emble- 

* The pen is run through the words, "with thirteen strings," in 
the original. 


matical of the several States acting in harmony and 
cJoncert; the star in chief has reference to America, 
Ks principal in the contest; the two fleurs-de-lis eltq 
borne as a grateful* testimony of the support given 
to her by France, and the two swords, crossing each 
other, signify the state of war< This tenant and his 
flag relate totally to America at the time of her 

(Signed,) " WM. BARTON." 

Mr. Middleton, Mr. Boudinot, and Mr. Butledge, 
reported a modification of this, June 13, 1782, which; 
was referred to the Secretary, of the United States, 
in Congress assembled, to take order. 

Device for a Great Seal, as adopted June 20, 1782. 

" The Secretary of the United States in Congress 
assembled, to whom was referred the several reports 
of committees on the device of a Great Seal to take 
order, reports :— 

"That the device for an armorial atchievement, 
and reverse of a Great Seal for the United States 
in Congress assembled, is as follows : — 

* **Jn. the arms of Scotland, as manifested in the royal atchieve- 
ment, the double fressure which surrounds the lion is borne flon/ 
and counter-flory (with fleurs-de-lis)^ which is in consequence of a 
treaty that was entered into between Charlemagne, then Emperor 
and King of France, and Achius, King of Scotland ; to denote that 
the Fr^ich lUies should guard and defend the Scottish lion." 


"Arms. — ^Paleways, of thirteen pieces, argent and 
gules, a chief azure. The escutcheon on the breast 
of the American bald eagle, displayed proper, hold- 
ing in his dexter talon an olive-branch, and in his 
sinister a bundle of thirteen arrows, all proper, and 
in his beak a scroll, inscribed with this motto : 
^ Pluribu9 Unum. 

"For the Crest. — Over the head of the eagle, 
which appears above the escutcheon, a glory, or, 
breaking through a cloud proper, and surrounding 
thirteen stars forming a constellation, argent on an 
azure field. 

"Reverse. — ^A pyramid unfinished. In the zenith, 
an eye in a triangle, surrounded with a glory proper. 
Over the eye these words, Annuit Ooeptis. On 
the base of the pyramid, the numerical letters, 
MDCCLXXVI., and underneath the following motto:* 

*Novu8 or do Seclorum,* 

^'RemarTcB and Explanations. — The escutcheon is 
composed of the chief and pale, the two most honor- 
able ordinaries. The pieces paly, represent the 
several States all joined in one solid compact entire, 
supporting a chief, which unites the whole and 
represents Congress. The motto, alluding to this 
Union. The pales in the arms are kept closely 
united by the chief, and the chief depends on that 
union, and the strength resulting from it, for its sup-. 


port, to denote the confederacy of the United States 
of America, and the preservation of their Union 
through Congress. 

" The colors of the pales are those used in the 
flag of the United States of America ; white, signifies 
purity and innocence ; red, hardiness and valor ; and 
blue, the color of the chief, signifies vigilance, perse- 
verance, and justice. The olive-branch and arrows 
denote the power of peace and war, which is exclu- 
sively vested in Congress. The constellation denotes 
a new State taking its place and rank among the 
sovereign powers. The escutcheon is borne on the 
breast of the American eagle, without any other 
supporters, to denote that the United States of 
America ought to rely on their ovm virtue. 

"Reverse. — The pyramid signifies strength and 
duration. The eye over it, and the motto, allude to 
the many and signal interpositions of Providence in 
favor of the American cause. The date underneath 
is that of the Declaration of Independence; and the 
words under it signify the beginning of the new 
American era, which commences from that date.*' 

In most of the above reports, a reference will be 
perceived to the devices and colors of the flag of the 
U. States, and many of the ideas presented in them 
are drawn from it, viz., the chief azure corresponding 
to the union of the flag, the pales corresponding to the 


Btripes, which together constitate a whole ; the con- 
stellation of stars also taken from the flag, and 
indicating a new State (composed of thirteen States) 
dependent npon their union. As these are the prin- 
cipal ideas presented in the arms of the United 
States, may we not reasonably conclade that, being 
borrowed from the flag, they are the yiews that pre- 
vailed at the time of its adoption, presented under 
another guise ? The reference to eternity, in the 
arms, was indicated by the circle of stars in the flag; 
the reference to Providence, in the eye, was in the 
flag presented in the field of thirteen stripes, a com- 
bination of the red and white flags, which bore the 
mottoes : ^^Qui trafistulit svstinetj'' and an ^'Appeal 
to Heaven." 

It is intimated, in some of these reports, that the 
colors for the flag were adopted apart from other 
reasons, as implying certain virtues ; of the fact of 
their implying them there can be no doubt, but that 
they were not immediately adopted into the flag for 
that reason, but rather because they were already in 
use, with these meanings attached to them, at least 
so far as the red and white colors were concerned, 
we think we have conclusively shown. We shall 
presently offer somd suggestions relative to the blue 
color, which will indicate a more direct reason for its 
adoption than the virtues implied by it. 


But to return to the account of the flag. We 
remarked, under the head of the Great Union Flag 
of the Colonies, that the stripes in the field of the 
flag were not only designed to show the union of the 
thirteen colonies, but also the number of members 
which composed it, and their dependence as a whole 
upon the Union. The first change in the flag of the 
United States, shows that this conclusion was a cor- 
rect one. It was directed in the following resolu- 
tion : — 

" Be it enacted^ &c.. That from and after the first 
day of May, Anno Domini one thousand seven hun- 
dred and ninety-five, the flag of the United States 
be fifteen stripes, alternate red and white. That the 
union be fifteen stars, white in a blue field." Ap- 
proved January 13, 1794. (See Fig. 2, Plate IIL) 

This was the flag of the United States during the 
war of 1812-14. 

In 1818, the flag of the United States was again 
altered, and, as we are informed, on the suggestion of 
the Hon. Mr. Wendover, of New York, a return was 
made to the thirteen stripes ; as it was anticipated 
the flag would become unwieldy if a stripe was added 
on the admission of each State; and, moreover, by the 
plan proposed, the union of the old thirteen States, 
as well as the number of members composing the ex- 
isting Union, would be presented by the flag of the 


United States. Mr. W. also proposed the arrange- 
ment of the stars in the union into the form of a 
single star. In this, there was a departure from the 
original design, as the perpetuity of the Union 
ceased to be indicated by the flag, as it had pre- 
yiouslj been in the circle of stars, except so far as 
indicated by the several stars forming one large 

The Resolution of 1818 was as follows : — 

^*£e it enacted, &c., That from and after the 
fourth day of July next, the flag of the United 
States be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red 
and white; that the union be twenty stars, white, in 
a blue field. 

^' And, that, on the admission of a new State into 
the Union, one star be added to the union of the 
flag ; and that such addition shalwike effect on the 
fourth day of July next succeeding such admission." 
Approved April 4, 1818. 

The flag planted on the National Palace of the 
city of Mexico had thirty stars in the union. 

The following compliment was paid to this flag. 

June 3, 1848, " Mr. Drayton submitted the fol- 
lowing resolution; which was considered, by unani- 
mous consent, and agreed to : — 

^^ liesolved, That the Vice-President be requested 
to have the flag of the United States first erected by 


the American army upon the palace in the capital 
of Mexico,* and now here presented, deposited for 
safe-keeping in the Department of State of the 
United States.*' — Page 370, Journal of the Senate 

The union of the United States flag at present 
contains thirty-one stars. (See Fig. 3, Plate III.) 

We have, in the preceding pages, offered many 
reasons for concluding that the devices in the flag, 
its colors, and the manner in which they were com- 
bined, originated in some circumstance directly con- 
nected with the history of the colonies, or in some 
practice which prevailed in the mother country. 
Particularly was this the case in the adoption of 
the emblem of union from the mother country. 
This leads us to make a few remarks as to the promi- 
nence given to the color blue in the reports on the 
adoption of the device for a Great Seal of the United 
States, and in its being the ground of the uniform of 
the United States. We have previously stated that 
its adoption was due to other circumstances directly, 
than its being typical of the virtues of perseverance, 
vigilance, and justice, though indirectly this meaning 
was involved in its adoption. First, blue was a 
favorite color in the colonies, as is proved by the fact 
of its being the uniform of the South Carolina troops 
in 1775. For we have seen that Colonel Moultrie 


e<aused a large blue flag to be made, with a crescent 
in one corner, to be uniform with the troops ; and by 
the fact that the pine-tree flag of New England was 
a blue field, containing in the upper canton, next the 
staff, a St. George's cross on a white ground, and a 
pine-tree represented in the upper square formed by 
the cross. A reason for this color being a favorite 
in New England, may perhaps be found in the cir- 
cumstance, that, in 1^79, when the banner of the 

league and covenant was^raised in Scotland, it was a 
red flag, the borders of which were edged with blue.* 
Borders of different color from the body of the flag, 
or from the shield of the coat of arms, are in her- 
aldry, a common distinction, and as such was doubt- 
less applied by the Covenanters (blue being the color 
of the field of the banner of Scotland, as we have 
seen), to indicate by whom this red flag was raised, 
and thus the blue color became identified with the 
league and covenant. After the defeat of Bothwell's 
Bridge, many of those people fled to the colonies, 
particularly to New England and New Jersey. 

That feelings kindred to those excited among the 
Covenanters were aroused among the colonists, is 
shown by the mottoes on " the Union flag with a red 
field,' ' already spoken of as displayed on a liberty- 
pole in New York city in 1775. Those mottoes were, 

* Walter Scott's Old Mortality, toI. ii. p. 116. 


* ' No Popery,'' and " George Rex and the liberties of 
America." It was probably in reference to his being 
commander of the armies of the colonies, united in a 
solemn league and covenant in defence of civil and 
religious liberty, that General Washington adopted 
as his badge a light blue riband, which had already 
been identified with a similar league and covenant in 
Scotland. At a later day, on the adoption of an 
Union flag as the flag of the United Colonies, the 
color of the field of the union (derived, as was the 
blue border of the red flag of the Covenanters, from 
the banner of Scotland) being blue, this color became 
identified with that which gave nationality to the 
colonies, viz., their union, and on this account was 
adopted as the ground of the national uniform, and 
as the color for the chief or union, both in the arms 
of the United States and in their flag. 

That the prevailing colors of the uniforms of the 
army at that time corresponded to the colors of the 
flag, is a well-known fact. Thus the facings of the 
blue coats were red, the color of the plumes white, 
tipped with red, &c. The buff and blue, commonly 
regarded as the continental uniform, was that of the 
general ofiicers, and not of the body of the troops. 
In the navy, the same was the case. The prevailing 
colors of the uniform of the officers of the navy 
were blue and red; those of the uniform of the 


marine officers, green and white; the colors of the flag 
of the United States, and of the flag of the floating 
batteries, before given, viz., white, with a green tree 
in the middle, &c. &c. 

That such considerations operate in the selection 
of colors for uniforms, is proved by the fact that the 
uniform of the United States corps of cadets, a 
corps instituted and kept up with a view to foster 
and preserve military knowledge in our country, 
instead of being of the national color, blue, is gray 
trimmed with black. This color for the uniform of 
that corps was chosen in 1815, out of compliment to 
the services of the brigade commanded by General 
Scott at Chippewa, &c., in the war of 1812-14. 
The embargo and the war having cut off the sup- 
ply of blue cloths, the commissary-general of pur- 
chases was forced temporarily to supply that brigade 
with a substitute of gray, trimmed with black. 

As this, then, was the origin of the color of the 
uniform of the corps of cadets, may we not conclude 
that, for the reasons assigned, blue was adopted as 
our national color, out of compliment to the Union, 
with which, as we have shown, it was intimately con- 

~ Having given the preceding account of our Na- 
tional Flag, we now add the names of those con- 
nected with its different phases. 


1st. General Washington. 

2d. Benjamin Franklin, Mr. Lynch, and Mr. Har- 
rison ; the Committee of Conference, with General 
Washington, on the organization of the army, of 
which Colonel Joseph Reed was Secretary. 

3d. The Marine Committee; Mr. Bartlett, Mr. 
Hancock, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Deane, Mr. Lewis, Mr. 
Crane, Mr. R. Morris, Mr. Read, Mr. Chase, Mr. 
R. H. Lee, Mr. Hewes, Mr. Gadsden, and Mr. 

4th. The Board of War ; Mr. J. Adams, Mr. 
Sherman, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Wilson, and Mr. E. 

With this array of names before us, of those 
who, with others, established our liberty and Union, 
and the idea we have developed, that the devices 
adopted by them for the National Ensign of our 
country were intended to intimate the perpetuity of 
that country's union, may we not truly say of 
Washington and his compeers, now resting in their 
graves, as connected with those devices. There is 
neither speech nor language, but their voices are 
heard among them. Their sound has gone out into 
all lands, and their words into the ends of the 
world, proclaiming their* trust in Providence, that 
that Union should only perish, when the sun and 
moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw 
their light.